Paulina Eguino is a third year art major concentrating in neon and cartoon art, and is one of only two students at the University of Wisconsin with neon as one of the concentrations for their major. Though she didn’t start working with neon until college, her work has appeared all around Madison in shows at the Chazen Museum of Art, Art-In, 100state and others.
Hailing from Los Angeles, Eguino is a Posse Scholar and is also involved with the Associated Students of Madison as the School of Education Representative. She currently works at Fresh Madison Market and will be studying abroad in Italy next semester.
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Eguino credits The Studio — the creative arts learning community for freshmen on campus — as her inspiration for pursuing neon. When The Studio took a trip to the Art Lofts for a demonstration on glass blowing and neon, Eguino said she was immediately captivated by the craft.
“They showed us the hot shop and neon lab and I fell in love,” Eguino said. “They called it adult play-doh, this super hot material and they’re just playing with it like it’s nothing. I got hooked.”
Creating neon can be dangerous if it is not done properly and meticulously, as the craft involves working with an open flame and gas which can be released into the air.
Eguino doesn’t mind the danger involved, but rather enjoys this aspect of her art form.
“It’s weird, but I actually like burning my fingers,” she said. “It makes them stronger and I can get close to the flame for longer.”
Eguino said she is inspired by Keith Haring, an artist who was known for his pop art and graffiti-like work in 1980s New York. She draws her own cartoon characters which she then transforms into neon pieces. This is not a simple process, and Eguino spends long hours in the Art Lofts perfecting her craft.
Eguino explained the process of creating a neon piece and the numerous steps involved.
“First, we sketch out our ideas usually ten times at least,” Eguino said. “We use a plotter machine that translates the sketch onto illustrator so it’s easier to trace when we bend the glass over it. Then we heat up the glass, bend it, attach electrodes at the end, fill the glass with gas, paint it, wire it and then install it.”
While neon is Eguino’s strong suit, she is also a capable graphic designer, and recently designed the logo for The Yuyo Bros taco truck, an LA based Mexican American Fusion food truck.
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Eguino is also interested in erotic art, and creates characters and prints which express themes of sexuality in a unique way.
“In high school I thought it was funny that people would draw penises everywhere,” she said. “I wanted to turn it into something less like graffiti and more like fine art.”
While Eguino’s erotic art is not meant to be taken as an offensive joke, she did have a run-in with a member of the UW organization who saw it as such.
She had a print with erotic images hanging on her door on The Studio floor, and the floor’s custodian removed and damaged the poster without asking Eguino beforehand.
“I heard him grab it from my door so I chased him down the hallway. I called after him and he didn’t respond, so I chased him even further, but he had crumpled the image and told me I couldn’t have it on my door. I ended up meeting with people in housing who apologized on his behalf but told me the poster violated housing guidelines and is considered pornographic.”
The custodian for the floor was replaced, and Eguino is currently working with ASM to change UW housing’s policy on what is considered pornography.
“It felt like censorship. This was on the art floor where we all respect each other’s art. I’m hoping to work on a freedom of speech campaign with ASM specifically targeting what people can post in their dorms.”
Eguino’s most recent neon display is a character that looks like a heart, and the neon pulsates in response to your heartbeat.
The piece is hooked up to a heartbeat sensor, which was designed by Ken Flanagan, a PhD student at UW who 3D-printed and programmed the sensor to connect with the neon installation.
Eguino is also designing a new logo for ASM and is looking forward to having her work displayed in the Art Lofts for the end of year glass/neon show.
If you want to check out more of Eguino’s artwork or contact her to buy a piece, message her on Instagram @paulinaeguino_art.