Published on February 5th, 2016 | by Andrea Serna0
Lights Transcend at the Museum of Neon Art
By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer
The grand opening exhibition Illuminations, at the Museum of Neon Art, brings together a group of contemporary artists displaying glass, and light and animation art. The artists address issues from indigenous culture to social media emojis.
Although the museum has been in existence for more than 30 years, the Glendale location is its first permanent home. A grand opening is scheduled for from 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 6.
San Pedro artist Candice Gawne has served on the advisory board at Museum of Neon Art almost since the museum’s inception.
“It has been an epic journey” said Gawne. “Finally the city of Glendale welcomed us and gave us this building. It’s really a wonderful facility.”
She is represented in the group show with two pieces of her incandescent art. Gawne began her career as a painter, creating works reflecting her passion for light and color. In 1982, she began to experiment in sculpting with glass and light. Light serves as a literal and metaphorical medium to communicate transformation for the artist.
A rare visit to her cathedral-like studio, overlooking downtown San Pedro, will find you surrounded by luminous pulsing anemones, starfish and shimmering lunar beams. Gawne resides in a home exploding with color over the cliffs of Point Fermin. Much of her glass work reflects a fascination with botanical and marine life. Gawne said her passion started with a love for jellyfish but it has moved far beyond towards iridescent dragons, and finally, a neon doorway, — perhaps a threshold leading to the eternal light.
Abstract artist Lisa Schulte created A Conversation, a 10- by 20-foot wall of emojis, following a distinct conversation using only hugs, smiles, hearts and many more symbols that seem to have replaced conversation as we knew it, before social media.
“One could say that working in neon is akin to bringing sky to touch ground, harnessing the spiritual to the earth,” stated Schulte on her website.
Schulte began her affair with neon as a traditional neon sign maker. Eventually she expanded towards more personal work that has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art commissioned one of her pieces for their permanent collection and her art has been published in science books.
Today’s neon has moved away from the concept of highway advertisement and into the world of fine art. It has become multi-dimensional alchemy. Neon is a gateway between scientific principles and artistic expression.
The “Boulevard of Cars” on Brand Avenue in Glendale used to be lined with dazzling, animated, bright neon signs advertising the wild love affair Americans were having with automobiles during the mid 20th century.
Now, on Brand Avenue, you can once again find vibrant signs, as well as contemporary neon art, but it is inside the newly opened home of the Museum of Neon Art. The small building across the street from The American Center can be easily found by looking for the curvaceous figure of the Neon Diver on the roof.
The Neon Diver was created in 1950 for the Virginia Court Motel along U.S. Highway 80, the historical Dixie Overland Highway, in Meridian, Miss. Museum of Neon Art Vice President Eric Evavold explained the importance of neon during the creation of the great American highways system. Evavold, a neon preservationist, is known as Los Angeles’s ‘neon archeologist’ and devotes much of his time to rescuing abandoned neon signs.
“Neon is one of America’s cultural threads that hold us together in the blanket of history,” said Evavold, explaining that the birth of the automobile came in the early 1920s.
The Los Angeles Packard automobile dealer brought the first neon sign to America from the Paris Art Deco Fair.
The museum mission is divided between conserving the history of neon and development of the art form.
Bringing together historical preservation and contemporary art forms the Museum of Neon Art has just begun to build their future. The new building boasts a workshop to train the next generation weaving light and glass.
If you are feeling nostalgic for the beautiful neon signs of old Hollywood try the Neon Cruise, a double-decker tour bus. Coming up for Valentine’s Day, the Museum of Neon Art will take you from downtown Los Angeles to tour neon signs, movie marquees and permanent installations of contemporary neon art through downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood.
Tours meet at 7 p.m. and the bus departs at 7.30 p.m. sharp for the three-hour tour. Evavold will lead the February tour and you can depend on receiving an in-depth history of Hollywood landmarks, plus he has promised a few surprises. Tours fill up quickly every year, so call the museum or purchase tickets online.
The future is definitely bright.
Time: 12 to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday
Venue: Museum of Neon Art, 216 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale