The Dark Side of Neon ⚡ Kate Hush

By Marie Kloor for Scrimshaw Collective

Some people grow up knowing exactly what they want to do. Others spend a lifetime exploring, sometimes never landing on their passion. For a few lucky ones, their true calling finds them. In this case, neon found Kate Hush.

Kate didn’t plan on becoming a neon artist. She arrived in NYC by train in 2010 with a background in graphic design, and hoped to freelance in the city’s crowded art scene. One day she randomly stepped into a neon class, and to use her words, “never left.” She quickly mastered the medium and now teaches the very same classes that sparked her own interest. Fast forward a few years later and Kate is dominating the neon scene in the city and even hosting her own show in one of Scrimshaw's favorite haunts…The Brooklyn Navy Yard.

When news of her event at Cooler Galleries came across our radar we couldn't have confirmed our attendance sooner. With no subway access to the area, we hitched a ride on the old B62 city bus and thirteen stops later found ourselves near the waterfront in the warehouses of the Navy Yard.

As we entered the minimally designed and recently opened space, our first thought was how epic it would be to live here. The Gallery is in a restored shipping warehouse - it’s large enough to fit three of our own NYC apartments and comes with an open kitchen and a loft to boot. The lights were slightly dimmed and Kate’s art glowed against the stark walls.

Despite the bright colors and electricity coursing through the room, the show had a darker side. Titled ‘Female Behavior’, the neon images beaming back to us showcased wicked women. The concept plays off the femme fatale and the idea that the woman is evil, without redeeming qualities. As Kate says, "You're going to call them all crazy bitches anyway, so why not light them that way?” A woman is being carried through water holding a knife behind her victim’s back. One is lounging in a bathtub while blood drips off her outstretched hand; another washes blood out of her hair. We had to look twice at some pieces to grasp what made these women wicked.

With neon’s reemergence, it has become a newly celebrated art medium. Kate works at Precision Neon during the day, teaching classes and creating the ubiquitous neon signs found in most retail stores. Neon work requires the tools more typical of a carpenter than a painter. Kate dons goggles and creates every separate segment out of glass tubing. She then molds segments of different shapes and colors together by holding them over fire. And it’s no small endeavor; each work of art is made of over 100 feet of glass and usually requires some additional manpower to bend into place. After attending her show, we had a new appreciation for the pure sweat that goes into making any neon sign, much less the amazing and intricate images represented by her art.

Truly impressed by the mystery captured with this relatively raw medium, we departed in an electric haze. We’ve developed a newfound respect not only for the neon signs we encounter on any given city block, but also for the people that create them. After being assured by Kate that with some planning, sweat, muscle and electricity, even we could create a neon piece... now we are absolutely hooked on the idea of a glowing Scrimshaw sign against a white washed brick wall! We'll keep you posted if this dream ever becomes a reality, but in the meantime be sure to check out Kate and her electric art for a truly unique buzz.

Check out Kate’s show at Cooler Galleries (until January 31st)

Join us for a neon class at Precision Neon