Courtyard Series: Kevin Lyles

September 1 - March 26, 2017

About the Artist

Kevin Lyles grew up in Tennessee and Texas and graduated from Abilene Christian University with a BFA in art and then Bradley University with an MFA in sculpture. After graduate school he worked for ten years in sculptural restoration repairing monuments and architectural ornamentation. For the past twenty-five years he has taught art at the University of Rio Grande where he is a full professor. His work has been shown in more than 150 international, national, and regional exhibitions and is in many permanent collections. His sculpture often mixes several media within each piece with the aim of developing a visual story for the viewer. Currently he lives in rural southeast Ohio in a timber-frame home in the woods with his family.

About the Artist’s Work

CoreFlora is a stainless steel and bronze sculpture that was specifically created for the Huntington Museum of Art. Having a vibrant museum is a luxury for a small community; having a museum that marries both art and science is really an unusual treasure. It is exceptionally uncommon to have such beautiful hiking trails, a plant conservatory, and world-class art all together. It is this combination that Lyles was interested in showing in his sculpture. The silhouettes that create the main body of the work are taken from images gathered on the walking trail. The bronze reliefs are modeled after conservatory plants. These reliefs placed within the overall shape mirror the Museum’s atrium within the architecture.

Courtyard Series: Kevin Lyles

The specter of incarceration casts a very wide shadow in America, a nation that houses more prisoners than any country in the world. In spite of the tragic realities that often accompany it, the world of crime and criminals has always provided rich fodder for the public imagination, manifested in pop culture in forms ranging from folk ballads to modern-day television and film portrayals.

Artists have often embraced the topic, from Andy Warhol’s mug shot and execution chamber images to contemporary hip-hop musicians’ celebration of thug life.

Prisons such as Alcatraz (California), Sing Sing (New York), and Leavenworth (Kansas) have achieved legendary status as holding places for the nation’s most notorious criminals. Another facility that has been firmly etched into the public mind is San Quentin Prison, located just north of San Francisco, California. Built in 1852, it is one of the largest and most historic prisons in the United States. It has housed many well-known inmates, from Charles Manson and Eldridge Cleaver to country music star Merle Haggard. It currently serves as the holding facility for the largest group of death-row inmates in the country.

A number of years ago, a local collector purchased two record books from San Quentin Prison at a used bookstore in San Francisco. The records cover a span of years from 1918 into the 1930s and include a snippet of biographical information about each prisoner, both male and female, who was sentenced to serve time in the facility. In addition to the mug shot with the obligatory identification number prominently displayed, prison scribes recorded a litany of personal information about each inmate including the crime and length of sentence, height and weight, scars and tattoos, country or state of origin, occupation, and hat and shoe size. The recorder would occasionally interject a personal bias by using racial epithets to describe the prisoner’s ethnic background.

Each record had a space to document the conclusion of the prisoner’s stay at San Quentin, whether it be parole, transfer, escape, or execution. The litany of misdeeds ranged from embezzlement to assault and murder, and sometimes included offenses that would not be considered crimes today such as adultery and activist political or labor union activity. In the earlier of the two books, each prisoner is photographed wearing a hat, some of which are of the fancy variety, perhaps commemorating a last gasp effort to dress up before the prison-issued uniform became a daily routine.

For this exhibition, 11 artists were invited to use the imagery and information in the record books as a starting place for the creation of artworks for the show. Topics could range from a general statement on imprisonment to a
visualization of specific individuals who populated San Quentin Prison many decades ago. The exhibit will showcase a variety of media, from painting and drawing to ceramics and photography. The exhibition will include an accompanying catalog.

This exhibit is presented by Jack and Angie Bourdelais.

Support also comes from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is being presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Jack and Angie Bourdelais Present San Quentin Project

While primarily known today as a California impressionist painter, Lockwood De Forest (1850-1932) was one of hundreds of artists who made pilgrimages to the Middle East during the 19th century.

From December 1875 through July 1876 he traveled to the Middle East to paint the beautiful and historic landscapes that he would discover there. During the course of several months, he journeyed on the Nile, then up through Palestine, into Syria, including to Palmyra, and then off to Greece on his return home. In each location he sat down with brush in hand and painted exactly what he viewed with his own eyes on small, wooden panels. It is these paintings that will be featured beginning in winter 2017 at the Huntington Museum of Art.

Born in New York City to a prominent family, he traveled to Rome at the age of eighteen to take up studies with the Italian artist Hermann David Salomon Corrodi (1844–1905). While on that trip he made the acquaintance of the famous Hudson River School painter, Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) and upon his return to America, he worked in New York City where he exhibited regularly at the National Academy. Drawn by the moderate climate and beauty of the California coast, he began to winter in Santa Barbara in 1902 and in 1915 retired there permanently. While he would become known for his wonderfully colorful, impressionist oil sketches of California, the works from his tour of the Middle East instill a sense of piece that has eluded in the region in modern times.

What is especially interesting about his trip is De Forest’s diary observations have miraculously survived, allowing the viewer to get a better understanding of his time in the Middle East.

Early in his tour, which began in Egypt he noted while near E-Balyana The sky was of that partly cloudy, hazy kind, like so often we have at home in October, where the sunlight falls on the mountains – the color looking very much like our own after they have turned to that rich, golden orange hue.” By April of 1876 he was moving into Syria, where he commented on the Sea of Tiberias, better known today as the Sea of Galilee: “The Sea of Tiberias is by far the most picturesque place we have seen in Palestine or Syria. I should like to have stayed there a week but had to content myself with one day, and only had time to make a few hasty pencil sketches.”

But it was in May of that year that he and his retinue came to Palmyra – the famously historic city located in Syria that was so recently devastated. Following their arrival, De Forest commented on the exceptional architecture he witnessed: “We counted 350 Corinthian columns in perfect condition. They are all Corinthian, and mostly in groups from two to twenty… If you can imagine columns running off in perspective in all sorts of directions – sometimes with a distance of mountains like those in Egypt and at other times coming out from the top to base against the sky – you perhaps can form some dim idea of Palmyra.”

The exhibition at HMA will feature between 25 and 30 of these small yet extremely expressive works by De Forest, which demonstrate the rich, natural and built environment he encountered in the Middle East.

Sponsored by Drs. Joseph B. and Omayma Touma.

This exhibit is presented In Memory of Selden “Sandy” Spessard McNeer, III from the following: Ms. Carol H. Bailey; Mrs. Carolyn J. Bagby; Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan A. Broh; Campbell Woods, PLLC; Mr. and Mrs. Michael Cornfeld; Drs. William and Sarah Denman; Mrs. Betty M. Foard; Mr. John Gillispie; Ms. Billie Marie Karnes; Julienne and Selden McNeer, Jr.; and Ms. Sue D. Woods.

Presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is being presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

In Search of the Source: Paintings of the Nile and Beyond by Lockwood De Forest (1850-1932)