Artist Lecture: Beauvais Lyons

Wednesday, October 26, 5pm

Melchers Hall, Room 107

Artist Statement:

My studio work over the past thirty years has explored various forms of academic parody. Initially I worked in the genre of archaeological fiction, which I defined as the fabrication and documentation of an imaginary culture. In this context I fabricated artifacts that embodied the rituals and myths of hypothetical peoples.  These are then documented in hand printed bookplates which utilize both visual depictions and written interpretations of the iconography. In recent years my approach has centered on using the conventions of the museum to present works of fiction couched in documentary conventions.  For the “George and Helen Folk Art Collection” I fabricated and documented the work of eleven imaginary folk artists. Another project, Hokes Medical Arts” includes prints and drawings that appear to document medical and anatomical specimens. My current project presents prints and taxidermy for the “Association for Creative Zoology.” When each of these projects is completed, they are presented in the manner of a scientific or historical museum accompanied by scholarly tours that I conduct.

Artistic precedence for my work may be found literary and cinematic traditions of mock-documentation. These include Plato’s “Atlantis” as conceived by Ignatius Donnelly, Jorge Luis Borges’ novella “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” Woody Allen’s film Zelig and numerous contemporary artists, most of who are unrecognized by the art market. These include Norman Daly, Richard Purdy, Lenore Malen, Sarah Smith and others. An additional influence on my work is the history of vernacular art and scientific illustration.  I am also interested in the intersection of pranks and contemporary art.

In my approach to academic parody I place a great deal of emphasis on the interrelationship between the various elements in the exhibition. I strive for visual, thematic and conceptual continuity in the exhibitions through the use of repeated stylistic motifs and serial images. While the projects are made from a variety of individual works, I strive to think of each project as an aesthetic whole.

As an artist, academic parody provides an elaborate stratagem by which I can employ a diverse range of visual, written and theatrical means to present a narrative. This genre is potentially unlimited, and can take almost any form, style or medium to reflect almost any system of knowledge or belief. Documentary and museological methods can also take numerous aesthetic and technical forms. Yet, I feel that the complexity of this genre is not an end in itself, but can only have meaning to the extent that universal human needs and conditions are addressed through the work. With these concerns I intend to create a work of fiction that is also a statement of truth.

About the artist

Lyons has taught printmaking in the University of Tennessee since 1985. He received his MFA degree from Arizona State University in 1983 and his BFA degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1980. Lyons’ one-person exhibitions have been presented at over 60 museums and galleries in the United States and abroad. His prints are in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia. PA.

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