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KID STUFF

IN THEIR ELEMENT : The Vividness of Neon Art Is Likely to Keep Kids in Front of the Tube

August 24, 1995|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for the Times Orange County Edition.

Ever wonder what Roger Rabbit's dreams are like? Step inside the Brea Gallery's "Theatre of Light and Motion" neon light exhibit and you may get a clue.

Presented by members of the national Coalition of Light Artists, the exhibit is a riot of shapes and images that literally hums with color.

And although a few of the 50 pieces may be too sophisticated for youngsters (some include mild representations of nudity), most are infused with a sense of whimsy and playfulness that makes them easily accessible to children. In fact, said guest curator and coalition member Jan Sanchez, children are drawn to neon art like "moths to a flame."

Neon art "reaches out at you visually," Sanchez said during a stop in Brea before returning to her Ojai studio. "It colors the atmosphere of a room . . . as beautifully as firelight.

"Children embrace it immediately, but adults tend to be a little more wary. The reason, I think, is that when we went through school, we were taught fundamental lessons about art: We learned about the Renaissance, Cubism, Impressionism, the art of the '60s. We can look at a painting and think, 'This is a painting; this is safe.' "

In neon art, "you have artists working with a whole new material," she continued. (Neon art is created by injecting glass tubes with neon and other gasses, then pumping those tubes with high amounts of electricity.) Some adults "are skeptical because it's new to them, but for children, it's not new; it's their world. If kids had money, they would buy it in a heartbeat."

With prices running from $400 to about $14,000, it's unlikely kids will be buying the works in this show, but they can pick up a nifty glowing necklace or Frisbee in the gift shop for a few bucks.

The Brea Gallery is housed in the city's civic and cultural center across from the Curtis Theatre. Both venues will be open to the public at no charge Friday during Brea Fest: A Taste of the Arts, an evening of food and family-oriented entertainment that raises funds for the city's cultural arts programs. Highlights will include free continuous entertainment by local theater groups in the Curtis Theatre, pop and jazz bands, a country band with line-dancing instruction, performances by area dance studios, karaoke, children's face painting, magic and stamp art. Food tastes from about 30 area restaurants will be sold for $2 each, and there will be a beer and wine garden. Most of the entertainment and food has been donated or underwritten by local businesses.

Inside the gallery, artists will demonstrate watercolor and silk painting.

Probably one of the most engaging pieces for youngsters in this show is Sanchez's "Door #3." Fashioned from a full-sized door and door frame and a variety of colored neon shapes, it looks like a scene from a cartoon. Arrows, stars and triangles of glowing neon erupt from behind the partially opened door; it's easy to imagine the Tasmanian Devil and Yosemite Sam wrassling on the other side.

Created on site for this exhibit, "Door #3" is meant to impart "the old 'what's behind door No. 3?' game show kind of fun," Sanchez explained. "It's like a cartoon closet where you open the door and everything just comes tumbling out."

Youngsters may also be drawn to Kim Koga's "Noodles in Chaos," in which multicolored strands of neon tubing snake toward the ceiling, and Candice Gawne's "Coral Reef I," which combines black light and neon to create a fantasy underwater scene. Gawne includes a "slithering" octopus by using something called a jellybean transformer, which slows the wavelength of the electrical current to give the appearance of movement.

Children are often so attracted to neon art that they want to touch it, but Sanchez and Brea Gallery assistant coordinator Jennifer Dana, who helped mount the show, are enforcing a strict hands-off policy because of the electricity involved and the fragility of the glass tubing.

* What: 'Theatre of Light and Motion' neon art exhibit and Brea Fest: A Taste of the Arts.

* When: Brea Fest is Friday, 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Exhibit runs through Oct. 20 (noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday; noon to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday).

* Where: Brea Gallery at the Brea Civic & Cultural Center, 1 Civic Center Circle, Brea.

* Whereabouts: From the Orange (57) Freeway, exit at Imperial Highway and drive west. Turn right onto Randolph, right onto Birch, then right again to civic center parking.

* Wherewithal: Admission to Brea Fest and the gallery is free Friday. Regular gallery admission is $1, free for visitors under 18. Parking is free.

* Where to call: (714) 990-7730.

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