Lili Lakich

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Lilly D. Lakich
Born Liliana Diane Lakich
(1944-06-04) June 4, 1944 (age 71)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Education London School of Film Technique, Pratt Institute
Known for Neon sculpture
Movement First director for the Museum of Neon Art

Liliana Diane Lakich (born June 4, 1944) is an American artist best known for her work in neon sculpture. Her sculptures have been included in major publications on contemporary sculpture, neon sculpture and feminist art including Signs,[1] and in many private and corporate collections.[2] She has had solo shows in Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles.[2]

Life and work[edit]

Lakich was born in Washington, D.C., but soon moved to Tucson, Arizona when her father's military career transferred the family to Davis Monthan Air Base and then to California when he was sent to the Korean War. They went on frequent road trips where she was exposed to roadside neon signs.[3]

My family was into road trips…[o]ur idea of recreation was to get in the car and drive on a weekend. So we would pick the motel by which one had the best neon sign.

—Lakich in interview with Curve, 2002.[3]

"When my father returned from the Korea," she recalls, "the first thing he did was buy a brand new, light-blue Chrysler. We drove all over the United States, visiting relatives and old friends from California to Florida. By day we read all the clever Burma Shave signs and stopped at every souvenir shop or roadside attraction that was made to look like a wigwam, teapot or giant hamburger, but it was driving at night that I loved best. It was then that the darkness would come alive with brightly colored images of cowboys twirling lassos atop rearing palominos, sinuous Indians shooting bows and arrows, or huge trucks in the sky with their wheels of light spinning. These were the neon signs attempting to lure motorists to stop at a particular motel or truck-stop diner. We stopped, but it was always the neon signs that I remembered."

She attended six 5th grades and three high schools in the U.S. and Germany (her father was now stationed in Frankfurt). After graduating from high school near Fort Meade, Maryland (between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.), she went to college at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Dissatisfied with the traditional painting, printmaking and sculpture classes that were offered, she left Pratt after her second year to attend the London School of Film Technique in London, England. Film making 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 incorporated 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."

Lakich settled in Los Angeles in 1968 and began exhibiting neon sculpture in 1973 at Gallery 707 on La Cienega Blvd. 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."

But Lakich did not heed the critic's advice. She continued to work in neon sculpture and recently completed a 114-ft. long public art commission for the Van Nuys FlyAway at 7610 Woodley Ave. in Van Nuys.

She was one of the ten invited artists whose work was exhibited in the Great American Lesbian Art Show at the Woman's Building in 1980.

From 1982, Lakich founded and served as first director for the Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles, remaining there until 1999. [4][5]


  • Lakich, Lili (1986). Neon Lovers Glow in the Dark. Los Angeles: Museum of Neon Art. ISBN 978-0-87905-419-9. 
  • Swan, Sheila; Lakich, Lili (1994). Neon Nevada. Reno: University of Nevada Press. ISBN 978-0-87417-246-1. 
  • Lakich, Lili (2007). Lakich: For Light. For Love. For Life. City: Lili Lakich Studio. ISBN 978-0-615-13351-5. 


  1. ^ Robertson, Jennifer (Autumn 1999). "Front Matter". Signs 25 (1): 1–2. doi:10.1086/495412. JSTOR 3175612. 
  2. ^ a b "Lili Lakich's Sirens & Other Neon Seductions Lights Up CSUN's New Art Galleries" (Press release). California State University Northridge. 2001-02-01. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  3. ^ a b Einhart, Nancy (2002). "Neon artist Lili Lakich works magic with a familiar medium". Curve 12 (2). Archived from the original on 2003-02-06. 
  4. ^ Crowe, Michael F. (1991). "Neon Signs: Their Origin, Use, and Maintenance". APT Bulletin 23 (2): 30–37. doi:10.2307/1504382. JSTOR 1504382. 
  5. ^ "WELCOME TO MONA" (FLASH TIMELINE). Museum of Neon Art. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 

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