39th Welcomes Kathy Reynolds
A relatively new addition to the 39thstreet district, in an unassuming studio tucked away off 39th; Reynolds Neon is a family owned and run business with an extensive body of work that can be seen all over the metro.
If you’ve been in Oklahoma City for any length of time chances are you’ve come across the work of neon artist, Kathy Reynolds. From the IAO Art Gallery on Film Row to Pie Junkie in the Plaza District, Reynolds has left her mark OKC in the most electrifying way.
Reynolds has been making art since the early 80s, creating what she could from found objects. She eventually got a job making stained glass but knew her passion lied elsewhere. The visual staple of the 80s, neon, was calling her name and she was determined to learn.
“I’ve been fascinated by neon. Just the excitement of neon, and it’s sexy and it’s kind of dangerous.”
The next step was to find someone who would teach her, though she would find that was much easier said than done. In 1984 there were no women doing neon work “it was the good ol’ boys club.”
Initially planning on living out of her car to apprentice with an artist in Florida, she heard of a man in Del City who was looking to make some money teaching, but when she approached him, he refused to take her on. Reynolds would go on to spend the entire summer trying to convince “Elmer” to teach her. Finally showing up one day “…in a mini skirt and a few hundred-dollar bills and waved the money in his face. He finally told me if I want to learn that badly he would take my money.”
It wasn’t easy to break into the field but she persevered and is now firmly established in neon design and sign production. But it wasn’t an easy start.
“Neon is harder than it looks. You have to be part artist, part scientist, part glass bender, part electrician and part mechanic to do this job.”
Reynolds has been instrumental in bringing forth the renaissance Oklahoma City currently sees itself in. She was asked to be part of the Automobile Alley planning commission back in 2000 in an effort to revitalize the downtown area and her work can be seen all over, from Joey's Pizzeria on Sheraton to the BUICK neon sign above Broadway 10.
She may have moved in to our district three short years ago but her history with 39th goes back much farther. In fact, she had her first date with her husband of over 20 years at a drag show at The Copa.
“I used to go to Miss Gay Oklahoma all the time, because my gay friends would do the hair and makeup and when I was younger, I used to be mistaken for a drag queen and I loved it!”
Always an advocate of “Live and Let Live” Reynolds has always been an ally to the LGBTQ community and feels right at home in her new studio tucked behind OKCs most prominent gay bars.
The future is bright for Reynolds with her work featured in OETA’s Emmy-nominated episode of Gallery America (Neon Nobility). She’ll get the chance to tap back into her “drag” past as The Boom’s own Maria Isabel has been enlisted to create her gown for the Emmy to be held July 10th, 2019.