Ashley Lyon’s new body of work, Fleshing, focuses on the figure fragment and reveals the breadth of her investigations into the relationship between two-dimensional images and three-dimensional objects. Her work is inspired by two-dimensional photographs of ordinary human bodies and archaeological artifacts and by found imagery and nuanced memories. She never sculpts directly from live models.
Lyon often pauses in the studio to photograph her sculptures at various points during their creation. Consequently, her three-dimensional objects—influenced by two-dimensional images—are themselves deliberately translated back into two-dimensions. Capturing the objects in-process also informs how Lyon proceeds with the work. Head bent under the dark cloth of a large format camera, she examines the composition of the pieces, which appear upside down and backward on the viewfinder glass. This distorted view distances the work from its association with the figure. The photographs, therefore, are the result of the kind of detached observation one experiences when picking up a rock to study it as an object in and of itself, rather than as what it might represent.
Ashley Lyons: Artist Talk, November 12, 2014
Unlike many artists who focus on the figure, Lyon avoids constructing illustrations or overt narratives. By presenting images and objects as fragments, she seeks to isolate their emotional impact. Interestingly, however, the wet clay vessels in the photographic series, Knees, suggest portraits or abstracted heads. Modeled at life size, they are enlarged photographically to a larger-than-life scale, emphasizing the temporary state of their materiality. The wet clay uncannily evokes the qualities of actual skin folding and stretching across the anatomy of a real knee.
Lyon’s sculpture is hand-built, not cast from real bodies or objects. It contains flaws and traces of the challenge of rendering two-dimensional images in three dimensions, such as how to represent the front, back and sides of a knee from a flat source in which only the front is visible. In her words, “Replicating something out of clay is a way for me to really get to ‘know it,’ ‘see it,’ ‘understand it’—a process by which I internalize the object I am attempting to re-make, both its surface and exterior values as well as internal ones: psychological, empathetic, or memory-linked…I feel that the struggle between my hands, eyes, head, and heart both philosophically and literally impart the sensation of humanness into the objects.”
A presentation about the temporary sculpture created with SUNY Cortland students at Raquette Lake.