Exhibitions | 09-02-2023

She Bends exhibition explores neon

The US Museum of Glass is showing ‘She Bends: Redefining Neon Legacy’, an exhibition exploring the evolution of neon.

Opening on 11 February and on view until October 2023, ‘She Bends: Redefining Neon Legacy’ explores the evolution of neon teaching methods in this traditionally male-dominated art form, and the transition of the medium from advertising and commercial signage to fine art.

The exhibition is curated by the organisation She Bends, led by co-owners Meryl Pataky and Kelsey Issel. She Bends aims to push the boundaries of neon and is dedicated to building a more equitable future for the art form through public education, curatorial projects, and artist programmes.

“We want to tell neon’s story, and the stories of those who use it in their art,” explained Meryl Pataky. “We want to change the narrative around neon and show that the process is becoming more personal for the artists. The process can be just as interesting as the finished product. It can be magical, and there are so many stories that can be told. And, by supporting and celebrating the artists who are making new and challenging work, we can help continue this story responsibly.”

In addition to the process of neon and the importance of women and gender-expansive artists in the medium’s history, the Museum of Glass says visitors will learn about the intersection between art and science, the commercial history of the material, and its emergence as a more personal art form. Much of the exhibited work is not only a response to neon’s commercial origins, but an exploration of themes of cultural identity, healing, or political activism. Additionally, since neon is a ‘master/apprentice’ craft, the exhibition’s curators are focused on how neon skills are passed on and how the material’s legacy evolves to become younger and more diverse.

Katie Buckingham, Museum of Glass Curator, said, “Neon is an outstanding example of what makes glass art so special – a ubiquitous material that transforms in the hands of artists. I am excited for our visitors to see neon, a pervasive material for signage, through the eyes of the electrifying artists of She Bends.”

Exhibiting artists include Sarah Blood, Carissa Grace, Kacie Lees, Stephanie Sara Lifshutz, Victoria Ahmadizadeh Melendez, Meryl Pataky, Lily Reeves, Daniella Thach and Jude Abu Zaineh.

An opening celebration will be held on 11 February, with Family Day hands-on neon activities, exhibition tours, and demonstrations. An evening RSVP-only reception will follow.

Neon Demonstrations:

11-12 February: She Bends artists

10-14 May: Visiting artists GFTS (Gas Filling Tube Suckers)

27-29 May: Local neon artists

2-4 September: Local neon artists

11-15 October: Visiting artist Jay Macdonell

In addition, there will be a series of artist talks alongside the exhibition.

The Museum of Glass is a premier contemporary art museum opened in 2002 and dedicated to glass and glassmaking with the West Coast’s largest and most active museum glass studio.

The Museum of Glass is at: 1801 Dock Street, Tacoma, WA 98402, USA. Hours: 10am-5pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Find out more about this event via the website.

Image: The installation ‘A Modern Guilt’ (2020) comprises neon and mixed media and is a collaboration between Meryl Pataky and textile artist Allie Felton. Image courtesy of artist. Photo: Deb Leal.

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