In Focus: Meryl Pataky’s “Cellar Door”

We did a studio visit a while back with Meryl Pataky and have since been in awe of her work. After seeing firsthand the time, money, commitment and volatility of working with a medium such as neon, this girl deserves some major props.

Her work has been popping up in shows over the last few months in San Francisco, and she was recently featured in Hi-Fructose for her typographical neon in the group show “Word Play” at Design Matters in Los Angeles. But in this most recent endeavor, a solo show titled “Cellar Door” in the Shooting Gallery Project Space, she intermixed her love for the noble gases with organic plants, creating a live wall in collaboration with David Brenner of Habitat Horticulture. The live wall has a water filtration system beneath it, so it’s self sustainable.

Meryl incorporated a play on phonetics in some of the other pieces, above a triangle of black roses for “jer ne” and below bent glass filled with honey for “giv lov.”

Above, for Cellar Door, the artist recreated the elemental symbol of the noble gases helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr) and xenon (Xe) pumping the glass tubes with the material they represent. These often overlooked elements of the periodic table play an enormous role on Meryl’s work.

Below, Meryl and I collaborated on a print in San Francisco’s Sutro Forest. We had been planning it for months, she would produce the neon and we would shoot it in a live setting. We had a great team to help, it was no small chore to hike through the woods with fragile neon glass, generators, fog machines, camera equipment, beer, etc. Of course, it rained all day, but we wouldn’t have gotten quite the fog effect if it had been sunny. Meryl set up the neon while I held an umbrella over my camera, we blew in the fog with the fog machines to make it even more dramatic, and we finally got the shot despite several snags throughout the day. It was a wrap. And I got poison oak all over my legs the next day, but it was all worth it.

This print is the first in a series of neon as street art, if you want to spread some love the hashtag is #neonforest. Please contact Shooting Gallery for information if you’re interested in snagging a print, or any of the other pieces. They are all available. Photos by Abby Wilcox


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