Getting to know Kate Hush

Kate Hush is a visual artist with an edge. Her striking creations are unmistakable, depicting the female form in all its neon glory.

She has worked with some pretty big names and created some pretty impressive works of kaleidoscopic art in recent years. Here we catch up with Kate Hush to find out more about the woman behind the neon.

Let’s dive in.

Hi Kate, can you tell us a little about yourself and what got you into art?

I’m a conceptual artist who primarily works in the medium of glass, specifically neon, creating pictorial imagery. And, I think that’s an important distinction to make because there is still a notion out there that neon = lettering. 

I see myself more as a cave painter style storyteller in the neon world. And when it comes to what drew me to art—I can’t say for certain that a particular occurrence or matter pushed me towards it—I believe it’s an unexplainable thing. You’re either born with the inclination or you’re not. There’s no choice to be had. I like to say cows make milk, and I make art.

What aspects of your life have inspired your work?

This sounds very ‘I don’t know’, neanderthal at first take, but its a lot of unfulfilled feminine reprisal. Not malevolence though, never malevolence. I think it’s a form of catharsis, so I say its healthy. 

When you’re stuck in a moment or thinking of a moment where you felt powerless or just out of reach when it came to saying something or doing something against unfairness or injustice, do it in your art. 

In reality, the position doesn’t exist wherein I can spontaneously walk out of my job with my sexist business owner boss, so I’ll have this neon lady do it instead. And, I’ll have her do it in a bombastic and satirical way. 

She’s not just walking out; she’s setting the parking lot on fire on her way to the train. It’s funny and wild and maybe even makes you think ‘that’s very unhinged, maybe she felt pushed to do that, hmmm’. 

When it comes to a moment that could otherwise linger as something maudlin or mopey, I like to transform it into something else entirely. It’s better to laugh than to cry.

Terminal Blue, 2020, neon + fluorescent paint. Photo by Kate Hush

Your art is unlike anything else I’ve seen. Why neon?

I didn’t grow up in a metropolis of city lights, so my biggest exposure to neon was through film, and it was always like a character in itself to me. 

I think one of the first moments I knew neon was ‘it’, happened when I watched Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ It was when Kim Novak’s character—after her dramatic transformation—emerged from that dark hallway into a hotel room that was absolutely bathed in green neon. To this day, I don’t think it would have been as powerful or dramatic of a scene with any other kind of lighting. And it wasn’t until I was about a year or so into learning neon, and trying to circle in on how I wanted to use it that it clicked with me. 

I always wanted to tell a story with my work and was trying to figure out just how to do that with neon as the medium—but without the use of text, which I wasn’t particularly drawn to—then it hit me…I could make the neon the visual story itself, and not just a scenic element.

You’ve worked with some impressive names? What would you say have been your most fulfilling projects to date?

I really do love the campaign I did a few months ago with Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s not very often where I am handed the reins to create imagery showing a wily woman shotgunning a can of beer. It was right up my alley when it came to the libations, subject matter, and sense of humour—it was truly meant to be.

Five 107s outside of a Silver Buick, 2019, neon. Photo by Kate Hush

What are you working on at the moment?

Recently, I was a guest lecturer for fellow artist and neon professor Kacie Lees at the Institute of Art Chicago, and I am going to do it again very soon. 

Upon first discussing the idea, no one was sure how a virtual neon class outside of a fabrication space was going to land. Still, Kacie has found a brilliant way to teach neon outside of a bending studio during these times that call for social distancing. 

It’s safe to say it was a hit.

And, what’s next for Kate Hush?

I have a few ideas up my sleeve but I am notorious for keeping almost everything close to my vest.

Dan: People, watch this space!

Kate: thank you—it’s been an honour.

Follow Kate Hush on Instagram

Words: Dan Hughes