Women in Neon at MONA
By Genie Davis
Through February 8th
She Bends: Women in Neon at the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale offers 29 women artists working in rich, glowing, lustrous colors, in abstract and figurative forms, in curves and lines and varying textures of light and types of gasses.
Featuring the work of Sarah Blood, Teresa Escobar, Shawna Peterson, Linda Bracey, Emma-Kate Hart, Linda Sue Price, Dana Caputo, Michie Hongo, Lily Reeves, Anika Chasuk, Eve Hoyt, Lisa Schulte, Robin Clason, Kate Hush, Valerie Shusterov, Krista Davis, Koko Jamison, Olivia Steele, Eve De Haan, Kacie Lees, Megan Stelljes, Linda Diec, Stephanie Sara Lifshutz, Mary Voytek, Lily Erb, Leticia Maldonado, Romily Alice Walden, and Meryl Pataky, the exhibition, which runs through February, is billed as the largest all-female neon exhibition ever shown. Curated by Meryl Pataky, the artists here bend their own tubes, design, install, and assemble their works.
One of the most interesting things about women in neon is the role these artists have played in taking what was once primarily used for commercial purposes – albeit a graceful, thrilling form of signage – and helping to transform it into art. These are not mass produced works, nor are they devoted to the edification of an entity or business; rather the artists are working in a specific medium to create a diverse selection of artworks both ethereal and grounded. They come from the U.S. and from international locations such as Australia, Argentina, Japan, the U.K., and Germany.
Los Angeles-based Linda Sue Price exhibits a series of nine fascinating abstract pieces, all sinuous curve but with often pointed meaning. Presented over backgrounds of computer generated or photographic imagery, there is even an abstract snaky image of Trump in the mix. A quote from Black Elk, “All things are our relatives”, fits beautifully with both a vivid green and a rich orange neon shape, the latter evoking a kneeling, prayerful figure, with the former both an outgrowth of that figure and indicative of the flora and fauna of the earth. These are works that celebrate nature, love, and being human; they also passionately protest that which destroys these things.
Hailing from Brooklyn, Kate Hush offers a fiercely pastel – not an oxymoron here – vision of a woman in the bath, her back facing us, aglow in blue. There is a soft, powdered quality to the background from the glow of the neon-tubing which makes the image of the woman, her aqua-footed tub, and something just a bit eerily red dripping from one hand, all the more visceral.
Berlin’s Olivia Steele gives us a delicate periwinkle light emanating from the perfectly shaped handwritten phrase “The Right Amount of Everything.” Everything is underlined with a sweeping line that loops at the end, creating the appearance to the viewer that everything is still not quite enough. In stylistic contrast but with a counterpart message, Eva DeHaan gives us “Love Don’t Pay the Bills” in ragged print lettering.
Hailing from Virginia, Lily Erb creates a series of what could be unspooled film reels, stacked; the neon glows from within, like something incubating in this floor sculpture.
Megan Stelljes gives us a seductively phallic and amusing blue banana dangling down from a golden peel, while Anika Rivers gives us a harder, less smile-inducing phallic image in her red neon gun with silencer.
Teresa Escobar gives us the female form – soft breasts with assertive nipples in a range of colors and shapes both round and pendulous; Romily Alice also gives us the female form in full breasted torsos with beautifully long arms, powerful women shaped in grace. Bay-area artist Shawna Peterson gives us a dress form that seems alive. Kacie Lee’s tampon represents what the artist terms a single idea that pops up in her mind; it evokes an image of a jelly fish, an in-motion tampon. Nearby, Emma Hart’s dazzling curled rows of red shape a stunning sculptural female torso.
Sarah Blood’s glittering gold spangled background dances in the wind from a fan trained upon it, while hot pink letters proclaim “Ta-Da!” – an ironic contrast to the title of this large wall hanging, “I’m so Fucking Tired.” In contrast, Valerie Shusterov gives us a mix of neon and video image, the latter a surging, ever- shifting sea seemingly contained inside a neon treasure box, an image of eternal energy.
Lisa Shulte’s massive floor sculpture of white light beams is both a cage and a way to shake off restraints, the whiteness indicating the purity of release. Far softer, with the delicacy of painted art, Leticia Maldonado gives us rich, shifting floral forms.
Each artist here offers something special: it is not just the female perspective, it is a fresh perspective on neon that just happens to be female. Not surprisingly, the exhibition exemplifies the process of giving birth — to a whole new aspect of neon art. The exhibition closes February 8th, 2018, it would be a shame to miss a glimpse of this glow.