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Will Durham Neon Collection

'The Gambler,' Will Durham Neon Collection

—'The Gambler'
Will Durham Neon Collection

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Mapes neon from Will Durham Neon Collection

—Artwork: Mapes Neon
Will Durham Neon Collection

Durham’s fascination with neon dates from his childhood in Reno. He remembers driving through the neon landscape of downtown Reno, dazzled by the colors and the clean lines of the neon signs such as the Mapes cowboys and Primadonna donnas. About 16 years ago he started collecting neon signs, his first from a Chinese restaurant. He now has over 30 signs, many from Nevada, although his collection includes pieces from Tijuana, Mexico, California, and other places where neon was popular for commercial lure. For many Nevadans, the twin cowboys of the Mapes Hotel rank high in the nostalgia category, but tubular tequila glasses, cacti, and the Nevada Club Bucky Buckaroo, sporting a face in the shape of the state of Nevada, are equally seductive. Durham is learning to renovate the old signs he finds irresistible and this makes him unique among neon collectors. His long-term plan and dream is to find a home in Reno for a permanent display of these irreplaceable works of art. (from Debby Hinman, “The Lure of Neon: An Interview with Will Durham,” in Footprints, vol. 14, number 3, summer, 2011)