donna fischer | the artist next door | dec. 2015
Artists are indispensable in our society because they show us beauty that often goes unnoticed. Glass art has been a part of our world for centuries, but have you ever examined its flourishes and erratic patterns close up? Glass artist, Kimberly Lyon found that a camera's bionic focusing ability allows for an intimate glimpse into the colorful universe of glass. And like many great discoveries, this was not planned. “It was just an accident,â€ says Lyon. “It was a fluke. I made a piece of glass that was kind of interesting I put it down in some bright light that hit my dining room table and I thought, 'Oh, there are some neat textures in here.' So I just grabbed my point and shoot camera and took some pictures, which looked neat. I didn't expect anything to come of it; it was just for fun.â€
A friend examined the photo and pointed out the image of a horse's head, which sparked Lyon's imagination and sent her on a mission to experiment further. “So I just started exploring what was going on in some of the other pieces I had made. I worked with the point and shoot for a few months. I knew I wanted to be able to print these big so I needed something with more megapixels.â€
The process starts with piling different colored bits of glass into a ceramic pot that has holes in the bottom. Once a high enough temperature is reached in the kiln, melting occurs and the glass runs through the bottom and onto a shelf in the kiln. Glass tends to merge together, yet the colors don't bleed thoroughly together like paint. Intricate patterns and unexpected designs are the result of this technique. Once cooled, Lyon takes a macro-lens photograph of the glass, but only a tiny segment of the full piece. The picture gets enlarged and printed on aluminum to reveal a glossy, hyper-intense playground of color and shape. Somewhat trippy in their allure, the photographs are not unlike the fantastical images artists come up with to represent the farthest recesses of space.
Lyon's real training was in science and she's worked as a biochemist and immunologist. However, the lure of colors within glass was too much for her and she had to indulge her creative side. “I just always loved glass and wanted some stained glass for my home. For some reason I stopped by the craft store on the way home from work one day and picked up some scrap glass and a book and a glasscutter just to make things for myself. Completely self-taught. I have a degree in microbiology and that kind of gave me experience to learn by doing. That's how I do everything.â€
“I'm still fascinated with what the glass does. I had seen pot melts before. As a nice piece of glass art they're beautiful, but I'm finding that there's so much more in them that no one focuses on. It's like not seeing the trees for the forest.â€
It took some encouragement to bring these photos to the public. After showing a picture to the owners of The Flying Pig in Algoma (where her art is on display), Lyon realized it might be time to start selling her photographs. And it's been an adventure ever since. “That's been the most fun part about this. People come up and they're like, 'Is this painting?' I have to convince people that it's photography; that's why I have a piece of glass so that I can show them that it came from a tiny piece within the glass work.
“It gives me a real feeling of accomplishment and since I was so iffy about art when I was younger, now it makes me happy to create things. When I show things and other people see, appreciate and enjoy it that makes me ecstatic. I love to see what I can create. I'm still fascinated that they don't just mix together; one color hits another and it pushes it in a certain way and it's always different. I love the fact that it's random.â€
Being a scientist, Lyon's fascination with the mechanics of glass no doubt reaches a deeper level. “I would like to talk to a fluid mechanics type person,â€ she says. “I would like to see if anyone has studied why it does what it does.â€
Crowds at art shows can be fickle and Lyon points out the distinct advantage of having something novel on display. “In the past I've done other things with glass that I've thought were really, really exciting and people go, 'Oh, that's nice.' (dismissively). This has been one thing that has gotten a lot of interest. People call it 'art from art.' It's not something I ever expected to be doing. You never know where life's going to take you and sometimes it's an interesting ride.â€
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College was so taken with Lyon's art from art that they purchased six large pieces for their campus. Not only is Lyon enjoying this innovative approach to art, she's on her way toward a successful future with it. She's Googled the process from time to time and says she can't find any other artist doing what she's doing exactly. “I'm the only one doing this, as far as I can tell and that's almost scary,â€ she says, laughing.
“My life's been a little crazy lately and I haven't been able to do as much as I would like and I'm getting really antsy to do something. I haven't taken pictures in quite a while and I really need to!â€ As soon as she can, Lyon will probably be back at it, capturing the dynamic flow of color within glass and firing up our imaginations again.
Learn more about Kimberly Lyon's work at KGLyonglassart.com.
Donna Fischer is an avid fan of music, film and art. When she's not writing on these subjects you'll find her gardening or snowshoeing around Green Bay.