Why a neon art installation lights up an LA tunnel

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A new art installation illuminates the Third Street Tunnel in downtown Los Angeles.

It’s the work of Los Angeles-based artist Tory Dipietro and features a giant neon heart and a rainbow neon tunnel. LA Times reporter Deborah Vankin caught up with Dipietro when the project was completed. In an interview for “LA Times Today,” Vankin spoke about the inspiration behind the work.


What do you want to know

  • Los Angeles-based artist Tory Dipietro’s new work, The Light at the End of the Tunnel, illuminates the downtown Third Street Tunnel
  • The piece features a steel heart with a neon-lit sign that says “Los Angeles”
  • Dipietro said she sees the artwork as a symbol of hope for LA as it goes through difficult times
  • The artwork has a two-year permit, but Dipietro hopes it will become a permanent fixture

The Light at the End of the Tunnel is Dipietro’s monument to hope in Los Angeles.

“The artwork is a 22-foot-tall steel heart suspended above the Third Street tunnel exit in downtown, and it’s preceded by the words ‘Los Angeles’ written in lettering. aluminum that glow at night backed by neon lights. She also lined the concrete beams inside the tunnel ceiling with neon, each a different color so that the artwork forms this kind of cylindrical tunnel of arc light -in the sky. So basically Tory means it’s an immersive, moving art experience that cars will drive through. And as the headlights go through it, they’re part of that immersive art experience. “, explained Vankin.

Vankin shared how Dipietro was inspired to create the piece.

“The inspiration for this artwork took place in the darkest days of the pandemic. It was April 2020, and Tory, an artist who had been working in neon for a few years at that time, had a vision of a huge heart wrapped in a rainbow. She wanted to bring it to the city as a public work of art. And she didn’t know where it would go. She just had the vision that she wanted to present everyone with this visual monument of hope,” Vankin said.

“I learned firsthand that you can live a lifetime in darkness and when that light goes on, it’s like boom! Look at us now,” Dipietro said.

Vankin explained how Dipietro’s upbringing influences his work as an artist.

“Tory had a really tough upbringing. She grew up in Los Angeles. She’s a hometown girl, but she grew up between her father’s house in Montebello and her mother’s house in Temple City, shuttling between divorced parents. His father grew and sold weed legally for a living. So it was kind of a financially unstable environment. But art was the only thing that always stabilized her. She told me that when she was growing up in this really unstable environment, she had this happy place that she conjured up in her head. And it was basically a garden of glowing flowers and plants. And when things got really tough, she kind of ran away there. Then one day, when she was in her twenties, she thought, “Oh my God, these plants and they are in this place in my head, these plants and flowers are neon.” It all made sense to her, and she had the idea that she was going to create a neon garden in real life as well. Later, she took a neon workshop in a downtown artsy neighborhood,” Vankin explained.

Dipietro has now developed a strong enough collector base to support himself by selling his work.

“The light at the end of the tunnel as Tory Dipietro’s gift to the city. She tells everyone that they shouldn’t lose hope no matter how bad things get, because there is always hope. There is always light, even in the darkest times, even when you cannot see it. When the neon is off, the lights are still there.

And any moment the light can go on and everything can change,” Vankin said.

Light at the End of the Tunnel currently has a two-year license, but Dipietro hopes to make it permanent. For a schedule and updates on tour dates, check Dipietro’s Instagram, @ToryDipietro.

Watch “LA Times Today” at 7 and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday on Spectrum News 1 and the Spectrum News app.

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