Todd Sanders’ Neon Signs Capture Austin’s Nostalgia

ART + CULTURE | BY | August 24, 2017
Todd Sanders
"This piece represents the American open road and the adventure that lies ahead," he says, referencing the car-and-trailer work adorning a wall of his Austin studio, where his dog, Hank Jr. Jr. Jr., frequents.
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n his bright South Austin art gallery and design studio, Roadhouse Relics, neon Pop artist Todd Sanders creates vintage-style signs that embody Austin’s energetic character. His work ranges from cheeky phrases and silouhettes to more retro signage that one might have seen many years before.

We caught up with Sanders to learn more about his work and how he got his start.

What brought you to Austin?
On a spring break road trip in 1990, I missed my turn outside of Bastrop, Texas, and realized I was almost to Austin. My buddy and I agreed to keep driving, and after ten minutes of driving around the city, I told my buddy, I was going to move here. I’ll never live anywhere else.

Describe your work.
My neon art pieces look like old, rusty neon signs that were rescued from some Route 66 roadhouse–but are in fact brand new. I create my work as a tribute to the original sign masters of the 1930s and 1940s. I try to construct them as closely to the original specifications as possible, but with my own creative touch.

What would you say is your career highlight?
I had my first one-man show at Samuel Owen Gallery in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Seeing my work on the same wall as Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst was a very humbling experience for me.

What is your favorite neon sign you’ve designed to date?
The one I made in 2007 that says: “Sarah, Will You Marry Me?”

What do you love most about what you do?
I love that I made my own art, my way, without wondering if it would sell. In fact, it didn’t sell for many years. Now that I’m successful, I try to keep that same mentality: “If this doesn’t sell, I’ll be glad to keep it for myself.” I love knowing my works will live much longer than I will. It’s my way of writing onto the world, “Todd was here.”

PHOTOS: DARREN CARROLL

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