Biography

I was born, February, 1946, in Detroit, Michigan. After completing high school, I left for Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where my major became theater with an emphasis on costume design. I moved to San Francisco and was the costume mistress for The San Francisco Mime Troupe. My next step was to move to New York City and to study Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts, where I found myself gravitating towards non-traditional sculpture, (this was the mid sixties). A return to the west, Arizona, gave me a chance to work with Paolo Soleri on an experimental construction site in the high desert and also got me involved in weaving. My early training in sewing skills from my mother and grandmother also began to make their presence known in my art work. In the mid seventies I began to have success in showing and selling my primarily three dimensional textile or fiber art.

The death of my father, (both my parents were native hoosiers), my mother’s isolation and my husband’s and my need for affordable housing brought a return to the mid west. We moved to Indianapolis in the fall of 1980. We worked hard as restorers and owner/managers of downtown victorian properties. Therefore, the sixteen year gap in my art productivity. My husband, John Detweiler, is a painter. We both are very happy to return to the process of making art and we thank Indianapolis for being good to us and becoming our home for 28 years. We have recently, 2007, moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we are continuing our art endeavors.

Statement

The creation of a work begins or is seeded by a response to landscape, changes in light, books being read, the conflicts and joys of living and the work of other artists. The tactile quality of fabric and its flexibility are what moves me to create with textiles.

In preparation for rewriting my artist’s statement, I reflected on all my past work from 1970’s to 2012. There were some definite groupings and reoccurring themes. Every four years or so there would be a strong presence of female anatomy / sexuality in a somewhat abstracted form: in the 70’s, a four foot uterine shaped basket, (toddlers would disappear from the room and we would find them inside the basket); in the 90’s a painted and collaged fabric piece entitled, “Female Sun”; and in the2000’s the first three of the  shield series, which relate to the lower two thirds of the female torso. These shapes reference my own growth and maturing process as a woman and my rather individualistic sense of feminism, although when seen by other women there is recognition of celebration, pathos and humor.

Also in the 1970’s there was a series of ladders, three dimensional and made of various materials, such as woven grasses, synthetics, and hand sewn wire cloth. The ladder seemed to me to be a strong visual icon of man’s striving to improve, hopes and dreams, pure escapism and perhaps decent into darkness. Depending on the materials used, the size and gesture of the form, the ladder could have great meaning and mystery for both the artist and the viewer. Artists who influenced me at this time were Georgia O’Keeffe, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Ann Wilson.

As I began to create again in the 1990’s, the first grouping of work was a rather painterly series of two dimensional pieces. Silk was painted then collaged / pieced over with other fabrics, matted and framed with fabric and sewn completely by hand. These pieces were all abstract internal landscapes. They were efforts to express an emotional state with the form of the shapes and to push those shapes forward and back by use of color.

Another grouping  which occurred in the 90’s was the striped series. Based both on historic quilters use of stripes and on the influence of artists such as Agnes martin and Kenneth Noland, these pieces concentrated on the meditative qualities of the careful repetitive spacing of stripes and subtle changes of color.

In the year 2000, I continued to work with stripes. However they ceased to be the fore ground, instead they became the building blocks, much like clap board siding on a house. Pieces of Fabric were dyed, cut into strips, dipped in wax and nailed onto a wooden canvas. The result, though somewhat meditative, had a more aggressive visceral quality.

In the years 2001-2004 I started to work with a new material, industrial wool felt. I chose this medium because I wanted to move back to creating three dimensionally with out returning to the loom. During this time, as I learned the dye absorbing characteristics of the felt, I focused on two groups of work. The first, a series of four “Elemental Signs”, using the frame work of a real estate yard sign, with the felt being the informational element. Each sign stands for one of the elements, fire, earth, air, and water.

Each sign has a front and a back. The real estate sign format symbolizes the western culture’s belief in private ownership of all elements. The iconographic representation of the elements in the information area represents the universality and the unboundedness of these essential ingredients of our world. The second grouping begun in 2002 is a series of shields. Again I have picked an icon, that depending on it’s form can symbolize many qualities, fear, power, exhaustion, male or female qualities of the above. Arcing out from the wall, the felt allows itself to be pierced and shaped. It has the ability to look experienced, abused and molded by life. I find that the artists that I am looking at now are Ann Hamilton, Eva Hesse, Ellsworth Kelly and Martin Puryear.

Since moving to New Mexico, I have continued to work with industrial wool felt. Now it is carved and sometimes pulled open with stitches and the color of the dye is modulated with pastels and colored pencils. Though the total image of the piece is abstract, it refllects the colors of the New Mexico skies and the colors of the Aspen.

— Rebecca Lyon