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British artist Tracey Emin sends her love

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Emin’s I Promise to Love You at the Cosmopolitan
Photo: Erik Kabik

In all the press on British artist Tracey Emin, the attention tends to land mostly (and strangely) on her personal life: that of a seemingly temperamental woman who is unmarried and (we’re not even kidding on this one) childless. But to some extent maybe that’s to be expected, given that the 50-year-old artist has made thin any kind of wall between her life and her art.

That includes a 1995 tent, embroidered with the names of everyone with whom she’s slept (sexually or platonically) and “My Bed,” which is literally her bed as it existed after a serious bout of depression, complete with stained sheets, condoms, panties and garbage. Her neon works of phrases and fragments range from whimsical and pop-psychology riffs such as “Trust yourself” to the more intense and in-your-face “You should have loved me” and “People like you need to f*ck people like me.”

Part of the Young British Artists group and a Turner Prize nominee (for “My Bed”), Emin puts it out there, leaving us, for better or for worse, to marinate in it.

At the Cosmopolitan, where her neon work is featured via a partnership between Cosmo and New York’s Art Production Fund, we get a deep, penetrating expression of love from the artist that balances somewhere between pop-ish teenage musings and intense, heart-heavy words between lovers: “I listen to the ocean and all I hear is you,” “When I hold you I hold your heart,” and so on in white, blue or red hues that intensify their glow before disappearing.

Titled I Promise to Love You, each of the six works is spelled out quietly in Emin’s handwriting on an otherwise noisy and bombastic boulevard. Playing every hour on the hour through April 2015 on the 65-foot LED marquee and other digital screens leading into the hotel’s entrances along the Strip, it’s part of the resort’s ongoing Pause program.

In regard to the context of Las Vegas, which follows a similar project by Emin in Times Square in 2013, the artist said via email, “I try to choose very uplifting positive neons that are far removed from commercial advertising.”

Above the tourists, amid the lights, under the sun and in the traffic, Emin’s life/art reaches out to partying vacationers and ambling masses when they least expect it, through such phrases as, “I can’t believe how much I love you.” It’s as perfect and imperfect a fit as you could place in the busy corridor.

I Promise to Love You Through April 2015, Cosmopolitan.

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Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1998 as a general assignment reporter. In 2003, she turned her focus ...

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