Walter Askin: Through the Eyes of Artists

Aug 8, 2017

We never miss a chance to mention one of our favorite artists, Pasadena native Walter Askin. His work is currently included in the Los Angeles Metro’s “Through the Eyes of Artists” exhibit at Union Station along its new photographic light box passageway.

Speaking with Kirk Silsbee of the LA Times during his “Mainstreaming the Muse” exhibit at the Luckman Gallery, Askin reflected on his time studying art at UC Berkeley from 1949 to 1954. The process, Askin remembers, was “a castle of abstract expressionism—just what I wanted.… I loved the fact that you didn’t start with an image or predetermined idea, that you found the idea in the act of creating the work. Berkeley opened up a lot of things for me.”¹

Walter Askin is known for his imaginative and humorous pieces that often shift the viewer’s expectations of familiar objects and themes. Many of his pieces are also tinged with satire as he uses his artistic expression to bring mankind’s perceptions of their greatness back down to reality.Brigham Young University Museum of Art

Asked about methodology and consistent themes, Askin says he only has one rule: “Follow your weirds.”²



Walter Askin, center, at exhibit opening, standing with friends in front of his art work, (in light box); photo with graphics thanks to Walter Askin.


Renowned for fostering parades and festivals, Pasadena is represented in a whimsical procession of playful characters marching through (Askin’s) hometown. This work won a Silver Medal from the LA Society of

Askin: “…the real joy as an artist is to create work filled with delight, work that is more calm, more serene, more alive, more playful, more energized, more focused, more directed and more life filled for the time that we’re here.”


Mary Ann Ohmit, Azusa.


Some official information regarding the exhibit:

Established in 2003, the Through the Eyes of Artists series was created in the tradition of colorful travel destination posters to encourage riders to explore communities throughout the expanding Metro transit system. The posters are displayed on board Metro trains and buses. More than 40 artists have been commissioned to date.

Each artwork focuses on a particular neighborhood or city within Los Angeles County and highlights special, often lesser known or under-appreciated facets of those communities. Lush urban gardens, backyard barbeques, street parades, cemeteries and even a fantastical underwater world are among the subjects for these idiosyncratic works of art.

“Artists notice details in our environments that many of us don’t,” said Maya Emsden, head of Metro’s Art & Design Programs. “This exhibition showcases artists’ observations and their distinctive, sometimes quirky interpretations of the communities they know well. We hope that commuters, travelers and others passing through the station are inspired by these artists’ visions to journey to neighborhoods all over the county beyond the more well-known destinations like Hollywood.”

The twelve artists featured in the exhibition and the communities they have highlighted include Jonathan Anderson (Gardena), Walter Askin (Pasadena), Sarajo Frieden (Venice), Wakana Kimura (Inglewood), Christine Nguyen (Long Beach), Mary Ann Ohmit (Azusa), Sam Pace (Leimert Park), Jane Gillespie Pryor (Whittier), Aaron Rivera (Lakewood), Artemio Rodríguez (East Los Angeles), Shizu Saldamando (Little Tokyo), and Edith Waddell (Glendale).


Edith Waddell, Glendale.


Glendale’s Edith Waddell piece is the artists impression of her city, drawing “from the Brand Park’s Diverse cultural venues including the Brand Library, Doctor’s House Museum, Miradero, and Japanese garden, which she intertwines iconography representing the City’s rich ethnic fabric.”³

I wanted to capture (the) city’s historical value and cultural diversity. All of these elements represent the multicultural and thriving city of Glendale….—Edith Waddell

Following are other San Gabriel Valley artists who have “Through the Eyes of Artists” work…


Brooks Salzwedel, La Cañada/Flintridge.


La Cañada/Flintridge, Brooks Salzwedel: The artist saw La Cañada/ Flintridge as an emerald city floating above Los Angeles with beautifully tree lined streets with unique sunlight afforded to mountain sides.

“I chose to depict a time of day that will stay in line with my style of work as well as depict the range of foliage and color of the city, with colorful lens flares and a pastel colored sunset peeking through the silhouettes of the landscape.”


Phung Huynh, Alhambra.


Alhambra, Phung Huynh: Alhambra was the first city in California with an iron pipe irrigation system. The pipes frame the cultural icons and symbols of the city, including its founder, B.D. Wilson, and depict the community’s diversity, commerce and history.

“Representations of Alhambra’s history are made in my artwork as well as an attempt to visually bridge historical references with contemporary scenes and attitudes.”


Sonia Romero, Pomona.


Pomona, Sonia Romero: Romero pulls together a wide variety of cultural icons from the city’s history including the LA County Fair, Antique Row, the Arts Colony, the Wally Parks Motorsports Museum, and the goddess of Pomona herself.

“This is a symmetrical design which contains elements from many interesting aspects of the city of Pomona. These include: the goddess Pomona herself, orange trees from a bygone era, low-riders from the many car shows, the Ferris wheel, horse racing and farm animals from the Fairplex, the antique and art colony arches, and the Fox theater from downtown. The style of this piece is inspired by orange crate graphic labels.”


Raoul de la Sota, Highland Park.


Highland Park, Raoul de la Sota: Dusk shrouds Highland Park homes and LA freeways while downtown’s skyscrapers are sihouetted against a fiery twilight.

“Night has fallen and lights from traffic, houses and businesses glow in the dark. From the reddened horizon the sky deepens upward into night and onto that night is etched the stars and constellations of the ancient peoples.”


Initiated in 2014, the Metro Art Passageway Gallery presents artworks that engage a broad range of transit patrons and visitors. The displays are comprised of photographic transparencies, sequentially arranged on large-scale, internally illuminated boxes in the walkway connecting Union Station East and West. Past exhibitions have featured portraiture, architecture and landscapes.


The exhibition will also feature artist-led tours throughout the summer.  The exhibition and tour kick off a year of activities celebrating this award-winning series that will run through 2018.

August 19: Tour led by artists Wakana Kimura, Christine Nguyen and Shizu Saldamando

September 23: Tour led by Jane Gillespie Pryor, Aaron Rivera and Edith Waddel

To learn more, visit and


Walter Askin.


Walter Askin earned a B.A. and M.A. at University of California, Berkeley. He also attended the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at Oxford University, England. He’s been exhibiting in solo and groups shows since 1956 and his work has been displayed across the nation from MOMA and the Whitney in New York City to the Norton Simon here in Pasadena and Kauai Museum in Hawaii; from all over Europe to the 8th Annual Biennial in Taipei, Taiwan. Walter has art pieces in 57 selected institutional collections. As early as 1961, he received the Purchase Prize (one of many) at the 10th Annual San Gabriel Valley Artists Exhibition, Pasadena Art Museum (currently the Norton Simon Museum). He’s received grants, awards, and been an artist-in-residence at Tamarind, as well as at Athens School of Fine Arts in Mykonos, Greece, just to name a few. He’s been a visiting lecturer at Berkeley, the University of New Mexico, taught at California State University Los Angeles, president of the Los Angeles Printmaking Society, and organizer and co-chair of the 2nd International Conference on Humor in Art. He was also artist representative for the academic council of the College Board in New York.




¹ “Walter Askin’s Luckman Gallery Show is a retrospective in some respects” by Kirk Silsbee, October 10, 2015, LA Times.

² “Walter Askin’s Luckman Gallery Show is a retrospective in some respects” by Kirk Silsbee, October 10, 2015, LA Times.

³ “Glendale, 2015” Edith Waddell, LA Metro Art.







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