Plasma exhibits light up Museum of Neon Art

Downtown Glendale's Museum of Neon Art is showcasing two exhibits until the end of July this year dedicated to the psychedelic cousin of illuminated art known as plasma.

"The Art of Plasma" is a group exhibition of 28 artists whose work houses the dynamic colors and lights that result when, in the simplest terms, gas becomes ionized in a glass vessel.

Curated by artist Ed Kirshner and MONA Executive Director Kim Koga, the pieces by individual artists feature the use of plasma either in a full glass sculpture or where plasma is a component of a larger art piece.

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The exhibit will be loosely organized with smaller plasma sculptures — generally done by newer artists — in one area, followed by more robust, larger sculptures. Visitors will also find a section for pipes and bongs incorporating plasma.

Longtime plasma artist Mundy Hepburn is bringing several sculptures previously showcased in other museums. Hepburn said he hopes that pieces like his plasma flowers and 6-foot-tall hummingbird will inspire a new generation of plasma artists to join the relatively small community.

"I'm so amazed that it's starting to catch on," Hepburn said. "I've been making plasma so long that sometimes I think the work isn't very interesting, and then other people still come along and say, 'oh my god.'"

The second plasma art exhibit will focus on new works by one of the plasma art masters, Wayne Strattman. With more than 30 years of experience and a background in engineering and fine art, Strattman said the collections in his exhibit are inspired by the improbability of life forms.

"The basic idea is to examine how improbable carbon molecules self-assembled into living things, then self-assembled into neurons, which self-assembled into brains that actually look at themselves and use that for inspiration," Strattman said. "I think it's the most fascinating idea in science."

Among several of Strattman's pieces, attendees can see the glass portion of a roughly 7-foot-high marionette sculpture that took home top prizes at New York's Maker Faire in 2015.

"It's kind of a geek art form in a way, if you love working with scientific principles and really pushing the limit on them. But also taking that and crafting it into something — hopefully a meaningful art piece —then this is the perfect art form to work in," Strattman said.

The display runs through July 30. The museum is located at 216 S. Brand Blvd.

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Jeff Landa,

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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