The ‘prodigal son’ returns to Tiffin

Neon artist and Tiffin native Michael Flechtner is to be spotlighted in a September show at the Diane Kidd Art Gallery located in the Hayes Center for the Arts on the Tiffin University campus.

There are to be 25 neon art pieces in the show, titled “Prodigal Son.” The pieces are to be crated and driven from his home in Van Nuys, Calif., in a 16-foot rental truck to Tiffin. Flechtner said there is no specific theme.

“(The show) is a retrospective of my art and there are themes that run through it,” he said.

Flechtner said the pieces are originals and were made from 1992 to present.

For 30 years, Flechtner has been making neon artworks. He found his love of art through a class field trip to the Toledo Art Museum where he discovered paintings by Salvador Dali and Jacque Louis Davis.

“In fourth grade, I applied to a commercial art school who advertised on the inside of match book covers. I realized that it would be a while until I was good enough, and old enough, to go off to art school,” Flechtner said.

He graduated from Tiffin Columbian High School in 1970, he went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and finished his undergraduate degree in sculpture and painting at Columbus College of Art and Design. He later received his master’s degree in fine art from Wichita State University.

Flechtner found his love of neon from his friend Freddie Elliot, who taught him how to make neon tubes. He moved to Los Angeles and started bending neon signs by day and creating his own works by night.

“I think my favorite thing (about neon) is the simple act of heating the glass tubing and bending it,” Flechtner said. “It is like a meditation and I can do it for hours and hours. It makes me feel good inside.”

Flechtner was given a chance to show his work in 1999 at the Museum of Neon Art. His show was titled “Ecce Signum” or Behold, the sign!

“I was trying to come up with a Latin phrase for this exhibit in Tiffin when ‘Prodigal Son’ came to mind,” he said. “I got to thinking about when I do come back to town, I am welcomed with open arms. I got to thinking about this life’s journey of mine that has brought me to the coast and a whole other world and now I have been invited back to show what I’ve created from the gifts given to me by God and growing up safe and supported in Tiffin. It is the theme of (the) return embraced that has resonated with me.”

Each piece is to include a description, where it originated and the meaning behind it, Flechtner said.

Flechtner said one of his favorite pieces is “Bat, Man!” because it reveals one of his core beliefs.

“The main one being that I believe I’ve been reincarnated a number of times and seem to remember some of those lives,” Flechtner said. “I know I was a fish, a bird and an ape of some kind. There is a reference in the piece about auras and the body’s energy field. Plus the whole composition ties itself up neatly making references to what ended my life as a fish, bird and chimpanzee. It was just so neat beginning the drawing and watching it develop before my eyes, like I wasn’t in conscious control of the imagery.”

Among his other work, Flechtner created the design for the U.S. Postal Service “Celebrate” stamp.