She Bends: Redefining Neon Legacy @ Museum of Glass

Electric elegance ⚡

Published May 26, 2023

A colorful room with the words REPENT spelled in neon in the background. In the foreground, two chairs invite people to sit on them. Meryl Pataky (American, born 1983) with textile collaboration by Allie Felton. A Modern Guilt (installation view), 2020. Neon and mixed media; dimensions variable. Courtesy of artist. Photo by Deb Leal.
Feb 11 –
OCT 29

February 11th – October 29th
Open Wednesdays – Sundays: 10 am – 5 pm

My visit to the Museum of Glass was nothing short of a cultural immersion. Wandering led me to my first stop: an in-house hot shop—the West Coast’s largest and most active museum glass studio. I happily felt the temperature rise a few cozy degrees, then grabbed a stadium seat in what felt like a modern-day gladiator pit. The interpreter’s deep voice echoed through the conical auditorium and narrated the techniques on display below. 

YouTube video

As interesting as the rest of the museum was, She Bends: Redefining Neon Legacy alone was worth the trip. As I considered the VHS tape ribbons in Sarah Blood’s Echoanother woman briskly walked by, saying, “Neon doesn’t quite do it for me.” That comment cemented the tension of how this exhibit explores neon’s transition from commercial signage into fine art

If you didn’t know, neon is a master-apprentice tradeShe Bends is an organization that thinks intentionally about to whom the knowledge of this craft is passed. Some of my favorite works reflected shifting narratives within the art form: tend to grow (watermelons) by Jude Abu Zaineh presents the fruit as a symbol of Palestinian resistance. Stephanie Sara Lifshutz’s You Heard Me the First Time is a small but mighty “no“. The exposed web of wires in Daniella Thach’s Tower of Angkor Wat was a compelling metaphor. Mull over it afterwards with a walk along Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway

📸: "A Modern Guilt (installation view), 2020" | Courtesy Museum of Glass | Photo by Deb Leal

Meghna leads with her curiosity when writing about travel, food, and beverages. She previously wrote about cookbooks at Kitchen Arts & Letters, and has managed events & communications at Book Larder, Peddler Brewing Company, and Cascade Bicycle Club. She is newly pescatarian and a Seattle native. Follow along at @wanderingthali.

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