MERYL PATAKY: SHE BENDSSydney Cummings
The next artist that we are highlighting is the one and only, Meryl Pataky.
HOW IT STARTED
Young Meryl opted into taking a neon class at The Academy of Art when she was getting her undergrad in Sculpture. Before neon she was used to welding, silversmithing and working with materials that proposed to be a challenge for her.
“I have always been drawn to materials that offer me resistance in some way,” Meryl said. “It was a challenge. I was, and still am, committed to getting on top of.”
Little did she know how that class would change the course of her art, career, and life.
Meryl was first inspired on her neon journey by her neon teacher at the Academy of Art, Bill Concannon. Bill took on the role of mentorship for Meryl after she graduated, calling it her “extended education.”
Fourteen years later and Meryl is still challenging the realms of neon. She founded a group that acts as a community for artists of all different varieties—She Bends.
“She Bends was founded out of a need for support amongst women in the trade,” Meryl said. “It started as an exhibition at the Museum of Neon Art and has expanded to encompass a community of artists and benders from around the world.”
“Although we use the word ‘she’ we also support those artists that identify as anything other than cis-male. Some people (mostly men) would call this sexist and exclusive, however, we consider it equalizing and inclusive since neon has been a male-dominated trade for the better part of a century.”
Like Meryl’s go-getter personality, her style is ever-changing, and she isn’t afraid to step outside the boundaries and experiment with new shapes and ideas. Some of her work includes living walls, florals, and other organics such as crystals, mirrors, and even hair.
“I admittedly don’t stay in one place for very long,” Meryl said. “I’ve had many styles over the years and used a wide variety of mixed media with my neon works because I love to experiment.”
On the other hand, one thing that remains constant in Meryl’s work is the “combination of expression that traverses lived experience, the collective human experience and the cultural and cosmic origins of materials.”
“Neon has taught me so much about myself, and my workflow,” Meryl said. “Specifically, the harness sing of certain energies in the studio and maximizing for success. It’s alchemical, a craft in more ways than just one.”
As the saying goes, one must know the rules to break the rules, Meryl’s rebellious nature shines through in her work as she enjoys making veteran sign makers cringe by making a buzzing sign or having exposed connections.
As one of Abitech’s loyal customers, Abitech is happy to show off some of her work below.
“I like that Abitech will mix boxes where most suppliers will require full cases of colors,” Meryl said, “Abitech has been very supportive of She Bends over the years, which of course we appreciate!”
Meryl hopes that future generations have a diverse community of supportive people to walk the neon journey alongside them.
“I’d love to see more neon artwork that not only represents a variety of cultural identities but is depicted by those cultures with their own hands,” Meryl said. “Neon is a searing symbol of American capitalism and industry growth. What many people in neon don’t discuss when celebrating its history, is the negative effect this growth has had on non-white communities throughout history – it is widely accepted that capitalism and inequality are inextricably linked, and neon signs with capitalism. We need groups like ours to actively work towards bringing this trade into the hands of those affected by American capitalism, to not only empower these communities and illuminate their stories but to turn this symbolism of neon on its head. It’s not all romantic lighting, after all. We are the only group that talks openly about this.”
HOW TO SUPPORT
Show your support by following Meryl on Instagram @merylpataky along with @shebendsneon. Another thing to look out for November 11, 2021 the California Academy of Sciences will feature a panel discussion with a few of the She Bends artists and a screening of a film by neon artist Jess Krichelle.
Current or upcoming shows:
- Svane Foundation Auction at SFAI
- Sonoma State University in November
- California Academy of Sciences in November
- Additions Design Show