She Bends

April 1, 2018 - May 1, 2018

Curated by Meryl Pataky

A traveling exhibition spotlighting women who bend and design their own neon creations, repositioning the neon as an artistic medium rather than a commercial trade.

She Bends is the largest most inclusive all women exhibit ever put together, featuring up to 32 woman benders from around the globe.

At The Midway, She Bends becomes much more than an exhibition with programming, designed by Midway Arts Program & Gallery Director, Kelsey Issel, such as a big opening night soiree, neon workshops, glass bending demos, panel discussions and salon dinners.

“Pataky is very knowledgeable and deep into the badass, dangerously spontaneous art form of neon bending and is the perfect curator to seek out and celebrate like-minded artists”


“Neon has traditionally been a men’s field, yet today we see a growing number of women picking up the torch and bending glass for themselves to create artwork as well as signs. Originally known for its commercial applications – including seedy depictions of the female figure – neon in now appreciated for its conceptual content. Women’s influence on the medium has proven to further neon’s role as an art form and thus prolonged its survival as a trade”

-Kim Kogan, The Museum of Neon on the social importance of She Bends

“The material of neon itself is heavy with historical overtones, the act of women repurposing this trade to convey messages about the female experience is in and of itself an act of rebellion – not to mention these women are wildly talented and their neon works are an absolute pleasure for the eyes.”

-Kelsey Issel, Arts Director at The Midway Creative Complex on why she was compelled to bring the show to SF



Awake your senses and immerse yourself in creativity. A night of art, music & culinary experiences. The evening features a live performance by Los Angeles-based dance-pop band YACHT.  Their critically-acclaimed See Mystery Lights was named “Best New Music” by Pitchfork and “Critic’s Choice” by The New York Times. On the release of their 2014 EP Where Does This Disco?, WIRED called YACHT “music not as a thing in itself, but the beginning of a chain of experiences which has no edge.” Front woman Claire L Evans recently published her book “Broad Band”, which investigates the hidden history of the women who built the internet.


Break bread with the creatives behind She Bends. Hear artists, musicians, and chefs speak about their trade. Talk and eat with your hands, converse with strangers and friends. Bask in the neon light while satiating your belly and your mind. We are honored to have Azalina Eusope in the house as guest chef. Not only does this chef know about perseverance and passion, she is a veteran of Outside Lands and Bottlerock —so knows a little a thing or two about the confluence of music, art and food! Azalina is a member of the Mamak community from Penang, a historically rich island trading hub on the western coast of the Malaysian peninsula. As a 5th-generation street food vendor, Azalina found comfort in the flavors of Malaysian food while living abroad in several countries before landing in San Francisco, where she opened her own business in Twitter’s Market Square.

The neon community is small and San Francisco is very lucky to have a concentration of veterans in the trade.

Please join us for a symposium on the history, process and the future of neon – moderated by San Francisco Neon/ Historic Neon Network.

*This event is free & open to the public. The cafe will be open for food & drink*

San Francisco Neon – 

San Francisco Neon: Talks, tours, books, and consultations on restoration projects of vintage neon in historic neighborhoods. Our sister organization, Historic Neon Network, is a not-for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Tenderloin Museum. We advocate and educate about the artistic legacy of historic neon signs as a legacy archive of art, craft, culture, and the small business fabric of the city. Founders Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan are the authors/photographers of the book San Francisco Neon: Survivors and Lost Icons. Contact us about neon restoration projects, talks, tours, and exhibits. [email protected] 


Meryl Pataky – Originally from South Florida, Pataky moved to San Francisco in 2002 to attend the Academy of Art University. She fell in love with the tactile nature of sculpture and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture. An artist of many disciplines and mediums, Meryl focuses on the relationship between her own hands and material. Informing her material selection is a meditation on the elements of the periodic table from noble gases to metals and organics. She is aware of the history of her elements from their origins in the universe to their applications in culture and myth. The artist derives deeper meanings from these histories to add layers to her concepts. Both a personal and process driven narrative drive the work further forward. Meryl is the curator of the She Bends exhibition.  “I wanted to make it about females in a male-dominated industry making work themselves,” Meryl states, “I don’t want to see people who appropriate the medium because it’s trendy. I want women who bend, who actually work with this medium with their own two hands aside from just designing it. There’s so much more to neon that just design.”

Shawna Peterson – Shawna Peterson has been bending neon tubing since 1987. She began her neon career with fabrication, pattern-making, and design work. This eventually led to an apprenticeship with the neon tube-bender, R.J. Wells. While working for a nationwide sign company, she worked extensively in the commercial neon field, producing signs for companies like The Gap, Safeway, Starbucks, Payless Shoe Source, Miller Brewing, and Hollywood Video. Shawna has also done neon work for numerous other Bay Area projects, like the Yahoo! sign, the San Francisco Symphony’s Black and White Ball, Citizen Cake, Luna Park, The Last Supper Club, Andalu, Frisson, and Bongsu to name a few. Currently, Shawna still bends commercial neon projects, but she also creates neon art both independently and for other artists. She designs and produces her own neon sculpture and furniture. She is interested in using old signage in her artwork, transforming found metal cabinets and plastic faces into new, original pieces. Shawna bends new neon to work with her sculptures that incorporate the old sign fragments. In addition, she enjoys working with artists to create the neon they envision for their own art. Artists that she has worked with include Sarkis at the San Francisco Art Institute, Bill Kane, Mike Krouse, Jan Zivic, SFMOMA, and others.

Amy Palms – Because Amy Palms was born and raised in Brooklyn New York, that is something people should know. Most every advantage Amy has acquired in life can be attributed to her white privilege (as well as a good work ethic instilled by her midwestern parents). She received her BFA from Alfred University in mixed media sculpture, and has been making neon just about every day since 1995. “There’s a Yiddish term for thinking of a comeback too late; it’s called trepverter, which means ‘words that arrived too late’ a phenomenon this Brooklyn girl has certainly struggled with. As an artist who uses mixed media and neon in my work, I am most interested in how humans use language to communicate, which works really well with this medium. Neon is great because I have plenty of time to think about what I’m going to say, I get the last word, and all the attention for it.”

Roxy Rose – As a third-generation neon fabricator, Roxy Rose’s pieces are nothing short of mind-blowing. Her near 40 years of experience in the fires are evident in her intricate sculptures that, not only, display her mastery of the medium, but also, share personal messages and reflections on the state of the world we live in. “I started neon glass blowing in 1978 and took over the business in 2000. After 30 years of neon glassblowing I too retired and let my daughter take the business over. She still runs that business to this day. Not only has our company maintained its reputation of the highest standards of neon workmanship, it has also been the largest and longest family-run neon shop on the west coast.” Roxy is now free to practice her trade without the pressure of big business focusing on design and the top quality workmanship her grandfather taught her.

Roger Daniells – A 45 year veteran of the arts, Roger got his start at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA studying commercial and fine arts. He developed a deep love of glass art while teaching stained glass at the local city Recreation Department for two years. Working in Healdsburg, CA, he came across a neon bending apprenticeship and has worked in this medium both commercially and as a fine art form for the past 35 years.

Featured Artists:

Sarah Blood |@sarah_blood |

Linda Bracey |@godsownjunkyard |

Dana Caputo |@danacaputo|

Anika Chasuk |@town.neon |

Robin Clason |@floralislands |

Eve DeHaan |@halfaroastchicken |

Linda Diec |@rindarindarinda |

Lily Erb | @lilywelderb |

Teresa Escobar | @terebomba |

Emma-Kate Hart | @neon.hart |

Michie Hongo | @michi_jdn |

Eve Hoyt |@eveningneon|

Kate Hush |@katehush|

Danielle James |@d_j_neon|

Koko Jamison |@studioglow|

Tory DiPietro |@torydipietro|

Amy Palms |@amyplans|

Stephanie Lifshutz |@stephanie_sara_lif|

Leticia Maldonado |@leticiamaria|

Lily Montgomery |@lilyreeves |

Meryl Pataky |@merylpataky|

Shawna Peterson |@petersonneon|

Linda Sue Price |@lindasueprice|

Roxy Rose |@neogirlneon|

Lisa Schulte |@theneonqueen|

Valerie Shusterov |@_foreverneon_

Olivia Steele |@steeleism|

Megan Stelljes |@meganstelljes|

Mary Voytek |@msvoytek|

Romily Alice Walden |@romilyalice|

Kacie Lees |@kacielees|

Sydni Gause |@sydni_gause|

Ali Feeney |@ali_feeney|