The Master of Neon: Meryl Pataky
The use of neon in art is definitely not new. Walking down the streets even in the 1930s, you would have seen it illuminate restaurants, bars, clubs and even hotels. In decades to follow, the artistic uses of neon (tubing) became more apparent, and artists began to experiment in this medium, creating visual art pieces with a nod to the traditional advertisements of the past.
It’s a trend these days to see neon text sprawled on the walls of galleries and even homes. When used correctly, neon can be much more beautiful than the old dusty sign hanging in the window bar. It behaves unlike any other medium and takes physical skill to manipulate. How many artists do you know that really take the time to learn the ‘science’ behind bending glass, filling it with vapor, lighting it up, all to convey emotion and ideas? Well, we found one and her name is Meryl Pataky.
A true master of this art form, Meryl continues to push the boundaries of art and science. Inspired by universal connectedness, she creates abstract work that revolve around elements found in the periodic table – silver and copper, to neon, iron and carbon. But it’s not that simple, Meryl’s artistic form truly comes with technical expertise combining welding and glasswork to her blueprint.
Luckily for us, a few of Meryl’s pieces will light up Cerise Rooftop this spring. So we sat down with her to chat about her personal narrative of the process and pieces.
What’s your personal favorite piece you’ve ever created?
Some of my favorites are my deerhide works with neon and Rorschach. They have a very light and airy feel.
What’s your ideal environment to sculpt? Do you listen to music (if so, what kind)?
I do listen to music when I bend. Pixies, Santigold, sometimes Justin Timberlake. When I’m assembling, making frames or doing any tedious work, I like to listen to podcasts, The Moth or Serial or I have some crime drama shows on in the background. I love 48 Hours Mystery.
Does it all depend on your mood?
Not so much as practicality. I can’t really watch stuff while I bend so I listen to music. The tedious stuff needs the distraction of a show or a storyline to follow to break up the monotony.
Are the pieces you create a reflection of the music or podcast you’re listening to?
No not at all. My process isn’t that organic – by the time I’m at the point where I’m assembling a frame and watching shows, the thing I’m making is already set in stone.
A lot of your pieces are inspiring quotes. What’s your personal mantra/life motto?
My mentor has plenty of idioms relating to making neon. One of my favorites is, “Don’t do too good a job”. Although it may sound strange and although I always do the best work I can, the mantra is meant to remind me not to make myself crazy with this process. If you are too much of a perfectionist with this already challenge going and tedious medium, you’ll drive yourself crazy and it loses its fun.
What has been your favorite perfectly imperfect piece?
Probably my Epitaph piece (Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt). It was the first block letter text piece of that scale I had made and it’s SO not sign quality, imperfect according to any sign maker or bender. But it makes it so unique and charming, even my mentors love its funk and charm.
What do you do to relax?
This is a funny question for me because I don’t really have the time to relax anymore. But at the end of the work day, I love to deflate on my couch with my dog and watch some shows or read.
Amen. Give us a dog to cuddle up with and we’d be happy too.
It’s unconditional love.
What’s next? What are you working on now? We saw a “special project” in the works on Instagram.
The special project is confidential and won’t be announced until October. I have a number of cool commissions I’m working on. I’m applying to a local residency at the DeYoung Museum, fingers crossed, and a solo show in Portland in October at Stephanie Chefas Projects.
Congrats. Fingers crossed!
We’re kind of obsessed with the gnome piece. What’s the story behind it?
Failed relationships and that thing that happens when you’re first starting out with someone and you have no idea what they’re thinking and you overanalyze communications over text and generally are oblivious to the fact that you like each other but you’re trying to play it cool.
Ha. So true. Is this coming from personal experience? Any dating advice?
Yes personal experience, sure I think everyone has had that experience. And it is personal to me because it’s a male and female character, that’s not everyone’s dynamic but I think everyone can identify, hopefully.
Why a gnome?
They are actually dunce hats but supposed to be normal people just cartoony. So I call them Dunces.
Don’t miss Meryl Pataky’s Neon Art Exhibit on display at Cerise through May.