Artist of the Month: Lily Reeves

Jackie DishnerOctober 2018
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Glow with Lily Reeves, a neon artist with a graduate’s degree in the craft from Arizona State University.

Lily Reeves plays with neon, but not in Las Vegas. She’s in her studio, working with 250,000 volts of electricity and a blowtorch emitting 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit of heat. Reeves, known for art installations and performances that emphasize neon light, admits, “It’s dangerous work.”

It’s also beautiful and esoteric, with hints of spiritualism, superstition and even the occult. Her pursuit of this aesthetic package begins with transforming glass tubes under high heat, bending them, shaping them and filling them with the inert gases that ignite different colors of light.

“I’m interested in how energy can transform lives,” she says.

In “Last Dance,” she and a collaborator installed neon triangles on public land and then filmed a dance around them to call attention to an environmental concern. In “Methods of Healing,” she raises neon hoops over a person’s head and down the body for a type of performance art that becomes a photographic exhibit after opening night.

The Birmingham, Alabama, native discovered neon bending while earning her undergraduate degree in glass blowing at New York State’s Alfred University. “It changed everything… Neon has a vitality. You want to hold it and play with it,” she says.

She came to the Valley for Arizona State University’s neon program (one of only four in the country, she says), earning her master of fine arts this year. She’s exhibited at the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, California, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and Tucson Museum of Art’s Arizona Biennial.

See her work at lilyreeves.com.

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