Neon Sculptures by Eric Franklin

Portland-based sculptor Eric Franklin constructs stunning these light structures that are fully hollow and filled with ionized neon, krypton, and mercury, causing them to glow similar to a neon light.

"The human body is mostly liquid, and glass is really just a liquid that happens to be frozen at room temperature. Glass is an amazing membrane that can be inflated, stretched and compressed. It can be broken and repaired. In some instances, glass has incredible strength and durability, and in others extreme fragility and vulnerability. Imagery of skulls and skeletons carry a certain post-mortem weight along with them, but they come from a much more visceral and optimistic place than that. For me, they are much more about being alive than dead. These pieces describe and define the dynamics and interconnection of everything that makes us human: from our bones to our psyche."

"Every glass seal has to be perfect, and this piece contains hundreds. Everywhere one tube joins another, or a tube terminates, glass tubes were sealed together. They have to be perfect in order to preserve the luminosity of the krypton. If one rogue molecule gets inside the void of the glass tubing it can eventually contaminate the gas and it will no longer glow."

"Each glass piece has a metal wire sealed through the glass wall, usually in an inconspicuous location. Once a sculpture is filled with gas, the color will remain constant. There are subtle color changes that happen when you get close, or touch the surface of the glass, but they will return to their original state once you move away. In order to drastically change the color, the glass would have to be cracked open and refilled with another gas."

"There are times when the holes in the seals are so small that you cannot actually see them with your eyes without the help of a leak detector. Once the glass pieces are ready to get filled with gas, I pull a high vacuum while the glass is hot in order to evacuate any dust or water vapor from the interior surface until there are literally no molecules inside the void of the glass. Then the krypton can be introduced and the glass sealed off. It’s an extremely tedious process, one I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with."

The glass skeleton titled 'Embodiment', took over 1,000 hours over a two year period to complete and built from 10 separate units of glass formed from borosilicate glass tubing.

"I spend about 1000 hours on each piece. I would say that the teeth are my biggest challenge. I have to simultaneously heat the jaw and the skull at a slow enough rate to crack the glass teeth. Also, in order to get the pieces to glow they have to be filled with a noble gas or a combination of noble gases. The noble gases will only glow if they are in an extremely pure state so the glass must be perfectly sealed. I must be vigilant about leaks, but it’s always exciting to see the light rush into the piece like a liquid and then slowly stabilize."

"Borosilicate glass has a much lower coefficient of expansion than the glass used to make vases and such. Most people know borosilicate glass as Pyrex, which is a brand name. Essentially it does not expand as much when it gets hot as other types of glass. It requires much more heat to work than other types of glass, and the working time (the amount of time it stays hot enough to manipulate) is much shorter. It can certainly crack if it gets too hot too fast, so it has to be heated and cooled slowly. The glass thickness has to be pretty consistent as well to avoid cracking. Borosilicate is definitely the best choice for the work I do, but a terrible choice for other projects."

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Source: installationmag


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