Neon Pop-Up Gallery Proposed

By Mary A. Crisafulli
ROXBURY – Local Artist Cris Ortiz is seeking ways to share his art with the community through free outdoor art exhibits. His idea is to create pop-up exhibits in locations such as Kirkside Park, where anyone can come and enjoy the beauty. The focal point is to “make the art accessible to everyone who wants to see it,” said Ortiz, “also it could be a fun surprise for people who might stumble upon it.”
The process
Ortiz works in the art of bending glass which is then filled with gas to make it glow, commonly referred to as neon art. Glass of four feet in length and 10 millimeters in diameter, is heated evenly using a burner which makes it bendable. The artist then uses gravity to pull and push the glass in the desired shape. Electrodes are attached to a finished item which is then attached to a bombarder. “Bombardment creates a vacuum in the glass,” explained Ortiz, “Electricity through the electrodes vaporizes everything in the glass.” Then the glass is filled with a gas typically neon or argon. In the final step, the “sculpture is mounted and attached to a transformer to plug right into its nearest outlet to illuminate a space,” Ortiz concluded. Neon is thought to be a long-lasting item, unless the glass breaks, it can always be refilled with gas, said Ortiz, who has heard of items 80 years old still functioning.
Creating Neon is a difficult and dangerous process where burns are commonplace.
“Inspiration, gravity, and all these other elements are pulling the glass in other directions and the art just becomes a thing, rather than you trying to make it a thing,” he said.
Ortiz studied neon at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “There was this whole mentality of needing to go to college as the next stage in life,” said Ortiz. The Chicago University stood out to him. Ortiz proceeded to enroll in the neon bending program there. “It is a small tight community,” he explained. Ortiz continued to say that fellow neon artists all support one another since there are so few. There are less than 400 people who know how to bend glass, said Ortiz.
Making a comeback
According to Ortiz, the once-popular art is experiencing a resurgence. Some individuals have been creating neon for over 30 years and novices like Ortiz have 10 years or less under their belt with no one in the middle, he explained.
While the outdoor exhibit could offer accessible art and exposure for Ortiz’s art it also allows for an educational opportunity. Ortiz said it is easy for people to be confused about neon today when there is glowing signage created from LED light strips sold all over the place that are often promoted as neon. “One of the worst things is the cannibalization of the name neon,” he said. In the exhibit, Ortiz hopes to have QR codes available near each piece that people can scan to learn more about neon and Ortiz’s work.
While Ortiz’s application for the Delaware Art Grant through The Roxbury Arts Group was denied, he still plans to find ways to provide accessible neon art and pursue the free exhibit. Ortiz said he is willing to work with any municipality or business to display the art. All you need is an outlet, he said. His art is already being featured in Margaretville at the Honeybee Herbs & Apothecary.
“What makes neon so cool is that it’s bright and it can be outside,” said Ortiz. One of the items Ortiz has created for the exhibit are bees, cute little yellow glowing bees to be humming around the outdoors in the Catskills region.
To view Ortiz’s art pieces for sale visit