Mari Lyons (1935–2016)
Mari Lyons has been called a “complete painter” by the critic Jed Perl. In her long career, she painted cityscapes, still lifes, studio interiors, figures from model, landscapes, and more. She especially loved flower still lifes, which were called by one critic “a joy and a knockout.” Her style was a personal form of painterly figuration. She loved the textured “thingness” of the canvas she built from what she saw, in her studio and plein air; her paintings were increasingly counter to so much recent art that is cool and conceptual. Above all, in whatever genre she worked, she wanted her paintings to be filled with energy, flux, and vitality.
Perhaps her commitment to such power and vigor in painting is connected to the fact that her first art teacher at Mills College was the great German Expressionist Max Beckmann. Later she studied in Paris, Bard College, Cranbrook Academy of Art, and Yale-Norfolk. Her work is in more than 100 serious collections, in the Museum of the City of New York, The New York State Museum, Mills College, Montana State University Library, Montana Art Museum, Climate Central, the DeGolyer Library, Rider University, and Reynolds Community College.
Mari called herself an “everyday painter” and worked constantly for more than sixty years. Reviews of her work by Lance Esplund, Jed Perl, John Seed, David Cohen, and others appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The New York Times, The New York Sun, The Woodstock Times, and elsewhere. She has had nearly twenty one-person exhibitions, mostly at First Street Gallery, and dozens of group shows.