LILI LAKICH - Neon Sculptor
Born in Washington D.C. in 1944.
Dissatisfied with the traditional painting, printmaking and sculpture classes that were offered, she left the Pratt Art Institute in New York after her second year to attend the London School of Film Technique in London, England. Filmmaking proved to be too much of a group activity, so she returned to Pratt and earned a Bachelor Fine Arts degree in 1967.
While at Pratt, a devastating personal relationship led her to create her first light sculpture, a self-portrait with tiny light bulbs controlled by a motor, blinking down her face like tears. "This was my first electric work of art," she says, "and for the first time in my life, I felt that I had really and absolutely expressed myself. For me, art is cathartic—-a means of packaging emotion and exorcising it. Once I had made a portrait of myself crying, I could stop crying. The sculpture cried for me. If you can express mangled feelings in a work of art, you can overpower them. They then exist as a set of lines, colors and forms. They're no longer an amorphous nausea eating away at your gut. They're incoporated into an object. You can see it. You can hang it on a wall. And if you can make it beautiful, you can somehow feel that it has sanctity...that it is an icon capable of arousing an emotional response in other people as well."
Remembering her love of neon in the landscape, she set out to learn to incorporate neon into her work and went to a local sign company to inquire if they would teach her. "They said, 'NO you can't learn this,' "but one man there gave me a couple of scrap neon tubes, drew me a little diagram of how to hook them up to a transformer, and told where I could buy a transformer. One neon tube was a white heart, the other was the word CHOCOLATE. I incorporated them into a couple of Plexiglas sculptures and after that started drawing my own designs and having them made by a neon tubebender.
Painted steel, plastic flowers, neon and argon gases in glass tubing.
126 x 108 x 12 in (320 x 274 x 30 cm)
"I created Blessed Oblivion in 1975 as my tombstone. It incorporates a sailor’s tattoo, which I had photographed at The Pike in Long Beach, as the central image below a death angel taken from a New England gravestone. I got the title from a tattoo that was on the arm of an actor who was in a film that was shot at my studio.
The tattoo on his forearm read:
Since it was a tombstone it needed a cross, so I added the cross. But for nearly a year I couldn’t figure out what to put on the left side. I drew in many different images; nothing worked. Then one evening some friends came to my studio for dinner and brought me some orchids. I took one look at them and pasted them onto my sculpture. I then created the vase and table to hold them, and replaced the dying orchids with plastic flowers which I bought at the five and dime. The sculpture was finished at long last."
from Neon Lovers Glow in the Dark
After graduating from Pratt Institute, Lakich moved to San Francisco briefly before settling in Los Angeles in 1968. Her first solo exhibition, at Womanspace in The Woman's Building in 1974, garnered a review in Artforum magazine by Peter Plagens where he commented "...the whole show is solid, however, I doubt whether Lakich will confine her development to static, confined neon, if for no other reason than the recent liberation of electric lights through Process, video, and performance art." (Boy, was he wrong. Thirty years later, Lakich has become one of the premier artists in the world working in illuminated sculpture).
Aluminum, brass, copper;
argon, helium and neon gas in glass tubing, neon crackle tube
72 x 56 x 18 in (72 x 56 x 18 cm)
The early works in Lakich’s series of sacred icons refer to the solemn, two-dimensional depictions of saints and martyrs from the Orthodox church tradition. Mambo shows the influence of masks from Mali and the Ivory coast in the artist’s work. Its Haitian name means voodoo priestess.
Aluminum, antique film reel and bicycle sprocket, argon gas in glass tubing
45 x 41 x 7 in (114 x 104 x 18 cm)
In 1996 Lakich set out to create smaller works that would more easily fit into people’s homes than the large scale works for which she has become known. After her Goddess Icons series sold out, she created a series of “heads” using found objects such as film reels, bicycle sprockets, and motorcycle and car parts which she mostly scavenged at swap meets. Her friend Paul Rayton, a film projectionist, gave her some beautiful antique film reels like the one in Paradox.
Starting with the concept that in art, as in life, paradise is in your head, Lakich incorporated the words “Paradise,” “Paradox,” “Cinema,” “Art,” and “Desire” into the heads. The works are simultaneously lyrical and ambiguous and meant to be just flat out beautiful.
The series was first exhibited at the Weho Lounge in West Hollywood in 1996 and at Malibu Gallery in Malibu, California in 2002.
Flaming Heart: Measuring a Panther, 2004
aluminum, brass, argon gas in glass tubing, antique calipers,
Each sculpture is an original creation incorporating authentic found objects or amethyst geodes. These beautiful, small wall-mounted sculptures give off
a soft and radiant glow that will bring life and energy
to any home, or as a gift for someone you love. The artist sells these via her website for around $900 each.