Kacie Lees describes herself as a “sculptress first, who sometimes uses neon”. She studied sculpture at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as part of an interdisciplinary program where she never felt the need to stick to only one medium. While there, she experimented with neon during open lab hours and is largely self-taught. Kacie now travels to teach neon bending in programs across the U.S.

 Tampon Circle, 2018, Kacie Lees
Tampon Circle, 2018, Kacie Lees

“I approach the medium with a sculptor’s eye, as opposed to the sign-making perspective.”

Kacie’s work tends to be free-form and spontaneous in nature, typically beginning as experiments in the fires. What emerges from these automatic bending sessions later dictates the nature of the piece.

Inspiration for other compositions generally stems from notable discussions with others, from strangers to friends, Kacie is always ready to chat. “I don’t take commissions, but I do take lengthy conversations, and if something interesting comes out of that, that’s what I use,” she explains.

Kacie’s hanging sculpture, Divine Inspiration from the Sun, references a tarot card the artist received during a reading. During the session, the tarot reader pulled the moon card, which depicts two dogs licking drops radiating out from the moon. The image resonated with Kacie, who learned that the image represents dogs consuming inspiration from the moon. She began recreating the upside-down teardrop shape in neon, playing with size and gravity, allowing the heated glass to settle itself into a drop.

Her Glitter Smash Series is an exploration in lettering, a technique Kacie is just beginning to teach herself. Every script that appears in the projection is handmade by Kacie and exists outside of the projection. These pieces were created while she was teaching in Los Angeles and had no access to bombarding equipment (which allows for the input of gas). Always one for experimentation, Kacie decided to fill each vessel with glitter. The audio captured while recording the smash at a slow speed is of the glass itself breaking, each bend and curve building the tonal density. This discovery has led to Kacie’s interest in exploring other materials and seeing how each substance may create alternate tonal changes. She asks, is it the bends in the glass, or the material?

For our East Coast friends, Kacie Lees is currently curating programming on Governor’s Island at her experimental space, Rare Air. Rare Air showcases neon work, offers studio programs, and incorporates educational content for visitors. The educational programming focuses on sharing the practical applications of rare gases in the world, like the fact that the U.S. Constitution is stored in a container sealed with argon. Learn more about Rare Air here.

A selection of Kacie Lees’ work is currently on view at The Midway Gallery as part of SHE BENDS: Women in Neon.


Learn more about Kacie Lees here
Follow Kacie @kacielees


All images and video provided by the artist unless otherwise stated