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Robert Lyon

Professor Emeritus
Studio Art
School of Visual Art and Design
University of South Carolina

Phone Number
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Artist Statement

For years, I made sculpture that was constructed from clay and wood. The cylindrical forms of Italian architect Aldo Rossi, small granaries from the Ivory Coast and the ancient towers of Iraq influenced the forms that I made. At one point I wanted to incorporate finials into the architectural forms that I was making. So I went out, bought a lathe and began teaching myself how to turn. 

My early lathe work with pencils originates from an interest in memory. My mother had recently died and she had suffered significant memory loss during her illness. Her illness made me question, where do our thoughts go? Working in my sketchbook, I realized that graphite was a good visual metaphor for the way our brain works. The smear of graphite is like memory, always fleeting, never permanent. 

From The Hive Series developed from my new endeavor, beekeeping. As I watched the bees construct their comb, I realized that both honeycomb and pencils were six-sided. This led to my current work, which incorporates some of my earlier thoughts about memory and its relationship to the world of nature. The pieces are made of ash, which are drilled and filled with graphite-impregnated epoxy and pencils. They are then turned smooth, hollowed and bleached. A couple of coats of protective lacquer are applied, buffed down to remove the high-gloss, and waxed. 

In my work, I try to make the effects of my hands evident, and I look forward to a time when our culture once again values the combination of imagination and skill.


Robert F. Lyon was born in Queens, New York. He received a BA degree in Studio Art and Art Education from Trenton State College, Trenton, New Jersey. In 1977 he was awarded the MFA degree with a concentration in ceramics and glass from the Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He joined the faculty of the School of Art at Louisiana State University in 1978 where he taught ceramics, glass and sculpture. In 1997 he was named Professor and Chair of the Department of Art at the University of South Carolina. Robert Lyon has been the recipient of several awards and grants, which include a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowship in sculpture and a Southeastern Artists Fellowship from the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art. Lyon has been an artist in residence at Sculpture Space, Inc. in Utica, New York, The Banff Center in Banff, Canada, the Kohler Company in Kohler, Wisconsin, and during the summer of 2009, a resident fellow with the International Turning Exchange in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania sponsored by The Center for Art in Wood, formerly the Wood Turning Center.