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Jellyfish Light Up New York

Jan 2008
Ashley L. Brenon

For most people, the word “neon” does not inspire visions of great artwork. In fact, it is more likely to be associated with barroom windows and motel vacancy signs. Eric Ehlenberger, a New Orleans artist and emergency room physician, is changing this perception with his work in luminous sculpture. His most recent exhibit, at the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, N.Y., features a group of jellyfish. The body of each jellyfish is handblown from about 8 lb of molten glass using traditional blowpipes. Each sculpture is fitted with a 7-in.-diameter neon ring, a neon transformer and a Plexiglas disc, which works as the connector between the body and the tentacles. The show, part of an exhibit titled Shattering Glass: New Perspectives, will remain on display through Feb. 24.


Using neon and glass, Eric Ehlenberger formed 12 luminous jellyfish sculptures. Hung from above, the sculptures glow simultaneously to form an installation that occupies an entire room at the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, N.Y. Photo by Michel Friang, courtesy of Eric Ehlenberger.


The tentacles are handblown from multiple pieces of neon tubing. Each tube is filled with neon, argon, krypton, xenon or a combination of these. Neon gas produces an orange-red color, while argon gas glows lavender. A tiny drop of mercury turns each one light blue. Photo by Michel Friang, courtesy of Eric Ehlenberger.



Besides the gases themselves, phosphor-powder coatings can be used to produce any color of the spectrum. The combination of inert gas, phosphorpowders and either clear or colored glass is what determines the final color of the neon tube. Photo by Michel Friang, courtesy of Eric Ehlenberger.


Ehlenberger’s past work includes many other marine-inspired sculptures, including fish and whales. Photo courtesy of Eric Ehlenberger.

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