STEPHANIE LIFSHUTZ: SHE BENDSSydney Cummings
Since taking a neon class from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2015, Stephanie has been working on the enigma that is neon.
“It is incredibly challenging, which makes it all the more exciting when accomplishing a piece,” she said. “Neon is one of those mediums that you can’t really have a finished product when you make a serious mistake – it must be structurally sound to be bombarded well and last a long time. Neon is like solving a puzzle – a new puzzle every time based on font, size, and arrangement of letters when bending text.”
While working in a variety of mediums, with neon Stephanie says she sticks with text in her neon art practice. They’re based on her thoughts, writing, and conversations.
“My work is about interactions and communication, and it makes the most sense to me to take these words and make them in a medium historically used for signage, to blast these thoughts for all to see.”
When asked what her favorite piece that she’s made was she admitted how hard that question is to answer.
“That is always such a difficult question, I love them all,” she said. “I usually answer this question by saying the most recent piece I’ve made is my favorite, since it is so fresh, and I’m still questioning everything about it.”
Currently, her favorite piece is one Stephanie made at the She Bends show in Loveland, CO. It uses 8mm, 6500 glass, and it was the largest piece she’d made to date.
“It required so many magnetic transformers! This was the first piece I’d made in a long time that was entirely about myself, and the medium, and the struggles I’ve faced. It was also made at a point in my life when I was questioning all labor and expectation I felt on my shoulders and needed a way to address it.”
All the questioning and expectations influenced the name of the piece, “You’ve Been Getting More Than What You Paid For,” right before the pandemic in 2020.
Throughout the different demands for various projects, Stephanie relies on Abitech to provide the transformers that fit her specific needs.
“I really appreciate the variety of transformers,” she said. “Since I feel like each project requires something different – more power, or a dimmer included. It helps knowing I can easily get the right supplies for my pieces.”
Her connection to the She Bends community has created a space for emotional and physical support from various women around the world and has helped cultivate so many meaningful relationships.
“Whether the friendship forms online or in person when we’re at a show opening together, I’ve appreciated meeting so many people and learning about their neon journeys.”
Hearing cynics say things like “women were bad at neon” and “it takes such a long time to get good at – you’re going to give up” had an adverse effect on Stephanie, fueling her to get better and better at her craft.
“As much as I’d like to say that the words of encouragement drowned out this noise, the doubts were what pushed me to keep going because I was terrible for a long time when I started, and I couldn’t let anyone be right about me giving up. I had to get better- I had to learn to make my work.”
Stephanie hopes to provide “inspiration, confidence, and a love for the beauty of bending techniques” for the next generation of benders.
When she’s not bending neon, she loves spending time with her sweet dog Pumpkin who Stephanie named her studio after. Pumpkin has been with her since grad school and loves to come to the shop. Stephanie also enjoys baking and cooking, channeling her creativity to a different outlet feeding her “my continuous compulsion to constantly make things.”
HOW TO SUPPORT
Check out her show opening this Friday, July 15th titled “no time at all.” at Var Gallery in Milwaukee, WI.
“I’m really looking forward to continuing to work with Josh Hintz, owner of the gallery, since he was incredibly supportive of us all when She Bends had our show there. This show has been delayed since 2020 and I can’t wait to finally get the work, and some new pieces, out into the world.”