VoyageLA Interview

My first official LA interview hot off the press 😬 Thank you @voyagelamag and @leahsmithsonart for encouraging me to tell my story. Who knows what’s possible in another few years ✨

Brooke, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Where do I begin? I guess it all began in Santa Fe, NM, on a road trip with my parents. I saw a woman blowing glass and was instantly drawn to the medium. As luck would have it, I found a glass teacher available back home in San Diego. With my parent’s help, at the age of 15, I met Andy Cohn and began glassblowing. I was her youngest student at the time. By the age of 18, I was a juried member of the Spanish Village, Balboa Park, San Diego. Andy and her studio gave me a space I felt safe to create, test ideas, perform in front of an audience and learn at such an awkward age. It was my home away from home — I loved being there so much. I’m still a member of Studio 19 and blow glass whenever possible.

Glassblowing remained a passion, but life took me a different direction. I pursued my Bachelor’s degree in Communication, graduating from USD during the recession. After a few internships, I eventually made my way to San Francisco for graduate school at AAU. While earning my degree in graphic design, I was hired as a designer in the wine industry for five years.

While at AAU, Bill Concannon was teaching neon as an elective course and I was lucky enough to take his intro class. I was instantly hooked. I merged everything I loved about hot glass with my design background—the sky was the limit! I kept wishing I could find a way to weave it into my thesis so I could take the next course. It would be a few years until I would pick up neon again.

It’s uncanny how everything fell into place. Skipping ahead a few years, at the age of 30, my life changed forever. My mom had a stroke, which set into motion many changes I could never have predicted. I moved to LA with my boyfriend to be closer to my family to help. I imagined LA would be easier to find work. What I ended up finding was the answer to my dreams — the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale.

Once I found MONA, I obsessively pursued neon. I took as many classes as possible, showing up to studio hours on weekends or whenever I would. I’m so grateful for each person I’ve met at MONA — Kim Koga, Lyle George, and Dave Johnson have all supported me along the way. I can’t thank them enough.

From there, I discovered Art Share LA, where I displayed my first piece of neon art in a gallery setting. Another defining moment was being accepted into She Bends, Milwaukee with so many female neon artists I admire. I’m now in the process of building my own studio in San Marcos. It’s amazing how much has happened in two years.

Has it been a smooth road?
It’s definitely been a wild ride with bumps and turns I could never seen coming. But without those struggles, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Some moments in life are so profound that you can’t help but be changed forever. I mentioned my mom’s stroke (that left her paralyzed on half of her body), but what I didn’t mention was that this coincided with my own early breast cancer diagnosis. My mom had breast cancer twice, so I made the decision to have a double mastectomy. I felt vulnerable and overcome with grief, which left me seeking a deeper understanding and guidance. These moments, as dark as they felt, allowed me to emerge with a greater sense of purpose and drive.

I don’t want to waste the time I’ve been given. Whatever gifts I have, I want to share them with the world. I think finding neon was my gift, and it helped heal me. It required my full attention, allowing me to get into a flow where time and thoughts almost fade away. While in the flames, I focused completely on the task at hand — it can be dangerous work! Hours could go by and I felt such joy completing a letter or bend that had challenged for weeks. One of my first neon pieces, “All that Glitters”, is grounded in my healing and understanding gained from my journey.

“All that Glitters” was inspired by everything I felt going through my double mastectomy surgery and witnessing my mom’s stroke recovery at the same time. What was once important suddenly became meaningless. What really matters is the people we have in our lives and the relationships that surround us. The cracked mirror reflects my shattered self at the time — still appearing whole at work and events, but fractured and fragile up close. The “Selfie” named font plays on all that is superficial and made to appear “gold”. This piece was dedicated to all my family, my fiancé and friends for their support and love in my darkest times.

Another roadblock (that forever altered my perception) took place only a few years prior. I was in a car accident outside of my apartment. In a matter of seconds, my right elbow was dislocated, fractured and ligaments were torn. My arm now has pins and a plate, plus new ligaments from a donor. I relearned how to twist and bend my elbow, an action I completely took for granted before the accident. My arm will never be the same, but I’m so grateful I can still move it and do glassblowing. Nothing in life is guaranteed.

Not to be dramatic, but I have one more example — my first commissioned neon piece. After months of working on a pink flamingo “Vaporwave” sign, letter by letter, I was ready to box and ship it to New York. My sign was outside a friend’s shop awaiting the move. Damn if somebody didn’t drive by and steal everything in the area, my sign included! I couldn’t believe it. Who knows where it went, probably in a dump somewhere? Either way, I had to remake it and won’t ever make that mistake again! Shoot, if anyone finds it…please return!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with your work – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I’ve been a designer for ten years now, developing branding and websites, labels and invitations. Currently, my focus is balanced between freelance design and neon art. At my best, I’m using my design skills and process to plan and create 3D neon art that tells a story. I’m most proud of my commitment to learning neon, and the initial entry bar is set really high. If you can keep showing up and trying, you’ll work through it; and it’s so worth it.

It’s a bit early to define exactly what sets me apart from other businesses. I’m still experimenting, learning and finding my direction as an artist. I guess I would say my design background? My ability to play with fonts, manipulate ideas on a computer, play with textures and layers, etc. Check back with me in a year or two, and I should have a better answer.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
After my time in San Francisco, I would have said, “I love the sun and that it’s flat.” But really, I love LA because it’s got some funk, it embraces the weirdos and has a creative pulse. You can tell the city is alive with so many dreams and stories waiting to be told. In countless short Lyft rides, I’ve interacted with drivers who can’t wait to share their side hustle. Many of my friends are working multiple jobs, juggling their passions with paying rent. I admire that. I feel at home here. 

Despite what I may have thought growing up in San Diego, I’m pleasantly shocked with how collaborative and supportive LA has been. Without the Museum of Neon Art and ArtShare LA, who knows where I’d be? They’ve allowed me to realize my dreams and make them a reality.

It goes without saying, the traffic is maddening. Because of the size of LA and the traffic, it seems like most of my friends live in another city. I wish there was a public transit system that functioned beyond only a few direct routes. And trees … we could use more trees in LA.

Met my match

Met my match (pun intended, checkout the pics of Scott McInnis’ work). Just a quick recap of the gallery opening a few weeks ago in Healdsburg—somehow we both made the cut!

To view Scott’s work and purchase his prints checkout:

For more information on future events at Healdsburg Center:

It wasn’t long ago, I was making the treck from San Francisco to my job at Jackson Family Wines in Santa Rosa/Healdsburg. It felt good to be back surrounded by vines! Speaking of vines, around Healdsburg—I recommend visiting Banshee Wines, La Crema and Simi Winery tasting rooms. Cheers!

Victory of the Surreal P(art) 2

Our two floor art structure will feature over 25+ artists/performers, with a dozen or so rooms, one leading into the a surreal dream.

We will have the following for you to experience:
Donation (wine/beer) Bar
20+ Visual Artists (with live painting)
Main Stage with live music, dance, poetry, instrumental and voice
Suspended VR simulation
Open Mic (with piano/flute accompaniment)
Video Installation
Shadow Performance
Quest Room
Aerial Silk
Spin Art (create your own masterpiece)
Interactive performances
Zen Lounge
and more...

Featuring the following Visual Artists and Installation Artists:
Blaise Smith | Brett Erskine | Brooke Barttelbort | Carlos G. Rodas | Carolina Galleran | Danni Lange | DeeAnn Morales | Dim Boriosv | Ella Bliss | Elmer Sipaque | Erica Bell | Erin Delsigne | George Utrilla Angulo | Harrison Lance Crawford | Heather Ireland | Jack Obrien | Kristina Malykhina | Lawrence Chin | Linzy Miggantz | Mac Maker | Max Unsell | Michael Pukac | Olesia Saveleva | Olesya Volk | Perry Katz | Peter Shpayer | Sasha Uzun | Skyler Gonzalez | Susie Haubner | Svetlana Bagdasaryan | Tony Koehl | Vaan Manoukian | Zohrab Kemkemian

Featuring the following Performers:
Anya Vivalial | Dianna Hynick | Evgeniy Sklyanskiy (SpacePyroman) | Jasmine Sugar | JD Wolfrobe | Joshua Smith | Ka Luna Ki Ato | Kalvin Madsen | Nico Hernandez | Nikita Shpayer | Orlando Kennedy | Roma Moksha | Samuel Newman | Vladimir Ershov

Read more about us:

Such a magical evening ✨ Thank you @dimworlds and @newageadventures for allowing me to be part of your creation 🖤

She Bends - Milwaukee 2019

Snow angles. Cheese curds. Ice fights. Burt Reynolds. She Bends has been as outrageous as I could have ever imagined. I loved the energy at VarWest with so many women I admire. Thank you to Meryl Pataky and Var West Gallery for pulling this together and making dreams come true!

The exhibition is open until March 23rd.
Var West Gallery is located on 423 W Pierce Street, Milwaukee WI, 53204.
Opening hours: Friday, Saturday 11am - 4pm or by appointment.

All photos by Cristina Ossers.

All works are for sale at

She Bends and Juxtapoz:

Art Share All Stars - January 2019

My first show of 2019! Art Share L.A. is excited to present "ART SHARE ALL STARS," a group show of selected past exhibitors from 2018. Kick off the New Year celebrating these MVPs from 6 - 10pm, with music, drinks and friends. Free and open to the public, ART SHARE ALL STARS will be on display through January 27th, 2019. 

Exhibiting artists include:
Kiara Aileen
Brooke Barttelbort
Juliana Bustillo
Mario Hernandez
Hyun Jung Ji
Tidawhitney Lek
Jack Lewis
Sarah No Special Name
Dark Parr
Marisa Sayler
Leah Smithson

Ripple Effect is designed to be a multi-panel piece inspired by our oceans treasures, reefs in particular. The first panel (shown here) is glistening with life and vibrant color when lit. The later panels will be focused on coral bleaching and the future of our oceans if we aren’t aware. Thanks to my Blue Planet binge sess, I was horrified to learn that some scientists predict that by the end of the century, coral reefs as we know them could be a thing of the past.

I plan to donate a portion of the sale of this piece to a nonprofit saving coral reefs and cleaning our oceans. As an individual I often feel overwhelmed by politics and my ability to make a change. Neon is my voice and one of the ways I hope to give back and inspire change.


She Bends @ Var West Gallery, Milwaukee

A dream come true — “All that Glitters” is headed to Milwaukee this January for She Bends. When I first moved to LA, She Bends was showing at MoNA. I immediately followed all the artists on Instagram, signed up for Meryl’s class (among others), and soaked up the talent I hoped to one day be part of. It’ll be hard to contain my excitement. This is proof hard work does pay off. Don’t give up on your dreams. Checkout @shebendsneon and for more information.


(From the She Bends website:)

“She Bends is a network of femme identifying neon benders from around the world. We provide each other support and resource in our individual journeys. In addition to the She Bends exhibition, our artists are also featured in a quarterly rotating window installation in San Francisco’s Hang Art Gallery. She Bends is curated by bender and artist, Meryl Pataky who lives and works in the Bay Area, California.

Our community of artisans is comprised of industry veterans, teachers, students, curators, writers, business owners and activists.

The goal of She Bends, in addition to sharing our work, is to be able to provide financial assistance and mentorship to young artists looking to start their own shops, work on engaging projects or afford shipping to various exhibitions they take part in on a regular basis, including She Bends traveling exhibition. As well, we would like to bring knowledge of this skilled work to disadvantaged and marginalized communities in the form of workshops in order to empower individuals in their career opportunities. We accept donations towards this cause.”

Labor of Love @ Art Share LA

I’m so excited! After just over a year in LA, practicing neon as often as possible—I made it into my first gallery exhibit! Come visit Labor of Love at Art Share LA, starting September 15th. I’ll be featuring “All Work and No Play” and “All that Glitters”.

A quick bit about this exhibit and its artists…

Art Share LA is hosting a curated open call exhibition to showcase art as work, and artists as workers. This special Labor Day exhibition is aimed to highlight the artist as a whole person — to not only honor and share the hardworking, human side of their creative hustle, and how the pursuit of a “day job” affects their practice, but also to appreciate the activity of work as a noble subject for fine art, and to include and spotlight the use of materials, techniques, and processes that in themselves are labor-intensive, and assertively made. All forms of “Labors of Love.”

The exhibition gives viewers the full picture of the artist behind the work, what factors influence their art, and what it takes in order for an artist to have the ability to create — both inside and outside the studio.

Featuring work by 20 talented local artists:
Brian Allen
Brooke Barttelbort
Elizabeth Covington
Lynn Creighton
Lauren Davidson
Christopher Gupit
Emily Halpern
Erik Herrera
Angela Izzo
Melissa Jolley
Hyun Jung Ji
Lois Keller
Manny Legaspe'
Jack Lewis
Alan Joseph Marx
Kaylee Richards
Orlando Roberts
Betzi Stein

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 12.36.59 PM.png
AS - Labor of Love IG.jpg

City of Angels

I'm moving to LA. I have to admit it's exciting to make a change. I have no plan set in stone. I need a place to live and I need a place to work. I know a few people, but I'll have to rebuild my close community. Regardless, I felt completely inspired by my surroundings. 

Light it up

The play of shadows and light can completely change a landscape. It's a concept that seems simple enough, but honestly, it's still something I struggle with. I spent a whole day photographing flowers, both in the studio and outdoors. Here's a few from that day...

Cherry Slush

I couldn't leave these luscious illustrations sitting on my computer, soak em up and sink your teeth in. 

Old film

While digging through old projects I came across some film that made me pause. At the time, I honestly didn't know a damn thing about photography, other than I really enjoyed capturing a place in time. I'm still amazed that these came out using the Canon Sure Shot I borrowed. I've moved heavily into the digital realm lately, either behind the camera or as a tech assistant. We move forward with a planned list of photos, collaborating with many, and editing until the image is perfect. This little find reminded me to go take photos with no guaranteed success, the payoff is even more enjoyable when you develop.