Beauty scale

Abstract artist captures the beauty of local landscapes

By Bridgette M. Redman
Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer

JUlika Lackner has been mesmerized by the Los Angeles night sky since the pandemic began.

The lockdown changed the longtime landscape artist’s focus and led her to create ‘Evening Mile: The Paintings of Julika Lackner’ on display at the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale from Saturday January 29 to Sunday May 1.

An in-person exhibition, “Evening Mile” features large-scale paintings that have a profound effect on patrons.

“This is the first time the series will be shown in real life,” said the Berlin-born artist who now lives in Eagle Rock.

“What I realize is that the paintings can seem quite repetitive – they’re all landscapes, all at dusk, all with lines in the sky. What it’s about for me is the differences within each painting and within each sunset. So it’s really exciting to show them in a room next to each other so people can have that experience. To show them in person versus photos of them is even better in person. This is usually the case with paints.

The series features views from his backyard in Eagle Rock and Southern California in general. Even now, she says the series is not over. She plans to expand her venue radius, though she still doesn’t travel far.

Site-specific works

For the exhibition Forest Lawn, she created three works in situ.

She went to the museum when it was closed and took pictures of the views from the west, north and south. The south view looks towards downtown Los Angeles, the north view looks at Glendale, and the west view looks at the San Fernando Valley.

“It’s really nice to have a show where people can come out and see that view,” Lackner said. “They can kind of see how I portray that view in my paintings. It was a really exciting part of the show for me.

Located in a cemetery, the museum has free parking and a public entrance.

The 17-room exhibit has evolved since its 2021 debut. Lackner said the paintings are larger, especially the Downtown LA one, which is the centerpiece of the exhibit.

“At first my opinions were very limited,” Lackner said. “So much about the pandemic early on made it very close and intimate. As the world began to open up, luckily I was able to go a little further – still Southern California, but there are some from Santa Barbara Bay and elsewhere.

Cross the pond

After Lackner moved from Berlin to Los Angeles, she earned an MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

In Berlin, she created figurative paintings of subway stations. That changed when she came to Pasadena.

“I switched to painting Los Angeles at night, but it was still pretty representative,” she said.

“It was about painting and flying orbs in the fog and this big dome of the Los Angeles sky that’s always on.”

She then paints in a more abstract way, drawing on atmosphere and space. She began a series of linear landscapes featuring California, Yellowstone, Death Valley and Yosemite – what she called all heavyweight dramatic landscapes. Then 2020 arrived and the confinements anchored it.

“For the very first time, I thought I should paint my point of view,” Lackner said. “We have a wraparound deck and I had never seriously thought about painting (in my opinion).”

She watched the sunset every night, taking pictures that she could refer to while painting. She merged her graduate style with her linear landscapes by bringing in colored lines that represented the light that is in the city reflected in the sky.

The Forest Lawn exhibit contains some of his earliest paintings, which provide context for this nocturnal series.

There is a representational landscape, a complete abstraction with just lines, and then another which is a landscape where the lines across the sky have started to appear.

From the beginning

She started the twilight series of paintings in April 2020. When the pandemic started, she was working on her linear landscapes and commissions. Then she saw a photo she took on her phone of the night sky from her terrace and was inspired to paint it.

“I was trying to capture the twinkling lights in the hills,” Lackner said. “There was this very warm feeling. I wanted the twinkling lights, but I didn’t want the dark dark night sky. This time right after sunset, there’s a really nice way to make the city lights shine in the sky. It’s just a beautiful time of day.

Previously, it avoided sunset and sunrise. The change received a warm welcome.

“It makes a difference,” she said. “I had an immediate positive response and it was very encouraging.”

She is delighted to exhibit at Forest Lawn, an institution that exhibits permanent and traveling collections. He was offered space in the front room, which ironically has a great view.

The series has been her most popular, in part because she feels Los Angeles doesn’t always get the love it deserves with art and aesthetics.

“It really is a beautiful place,” Lackner said. “The people who live here love him and are happy to see him treated with such respect, but also to bring out the beauty of the place, especially this northeast area with the hills and all.”

She is also happy to give back to Eagle Rock, Glendale and Pasadena because they mean a lot to her.

“The last two years have been really, really tough for most people in a lot of ways,” Lackner said. “I think the best part of the pandemic is that it’s brought people closer together and made them more understanding and gentler, hopefully anyway. This work, which tends to be uplifting, makes me want to give back to the community while enjoying my community.