Artist Spotlight: Sarah Lyon (The photographer exposes herself) [Visual Art]

Sarah Lyon interview

Currently you have a show titled “Autobiographies” with Joel McDonald at Zephyr Gallery. How much of it is autobiographical?
Joel is a member at Zephyr and I’ve known him for 10 years. We took a class together at UofL [University of Louisville]. I just took the class so I could use the darkroom and then I met him and we became friends. His show is very autobiographical, so I was kind of going along with his theme and I had all these different ideas.  Like all the pictures I shot in college, filling a huge wall with just prints. People would have really enjoyed that especially if they could see themselves from five or ten years ago, but it was too literal. The three pieces that are in the three rooms at Zephyr all originated at the same time. A year ago, a friend of mine died and then I got out of a relationship that was hard. I actually started mourning some other things for the first time in my life, so to me the work is autobiographical, but I’m not sure that the viewer would necessarily get that. I was really upset and I was driving around and I found these billboards so I just kept going back to them over and over again. Then it snowed and I thought “oh I really need to go” and that’s how I ended up photographing them. There’s something spiritual about them.

The “Abracadabra” started because my ex had this dog that was an issue. Dogs have been an issue for me for a long time, so I found these dog frames at Bargain Supply and I thought “I have got to do something with those” and so I don’t know where the word abracadabra popped into my head but I looked it up and it’s all about exorcising demons or sickness. I made that to kind of deal with this issue that I was having and to embrace it in a funny way.

Sarah Lyon, Abracadabra (detail)

Did your ex see it?
No. [laughs] I wouldn’t mind if she did. It also ended up being about purging my own desire to make art. The portrait of me on the opposite wall is like they’re facing each other like a battle of the artist’s ego.

What about the hair room?
When I tell this story, people’s eyes sort of glaze over. [laughs] When my hair falls out in the shower I have the habit of putting it on the wall before it falls in the drain. The only person who would see that is the person I’m dating. So, then the breakup, the loss, all that, so I took one picture of my shower and posted it on Facebook just because I thought it was a cool picture. Then I had like 35 responses from people talking about hair loss and all this intimate stuff and some people were making jokes. I had this moment where I thought that I’m sharing too much. I overanalyzed it, but that’s when I deleted my profile because I felt like I was trying to get some intimacy out of this social networking and it’s kind of empty. But since no one was coming into my shower, I stopped removing the hair. I would just leave them up there and so it started being this collection because I had no reason to remove them. I don’t find it gross. Some people get their best ideas in the shower. [laughs] I would be in there and I would look at them up close and they started to look like drawings to me. These beautiful abstract drawings, so instead of showing the photographs I realized I actually wanted to make drawings out of them. It’s a whole new thing for me to show drawings. I’ve never done that before. That was really purposeful.

In the “Autobiographies” show, Joel addresses his own alcoholism in his exhibit and I had planned on addressing my alcoholism in my show, but I didn’t. It’s like do you talk about it or not? I had a plan of making a sculpture about it, but I thought it was too obvious or something. My “Cork and Bottle” print is what that’s about. It [drinking] has affected my life in lots of ways. I’ve been dealing with it. I think tons of people do and they don’t really recognize it.

Sarah Lyon, Cork and Bottle

Do you still struggle with drinking?
Yeah. I think I always will. I’ve tried to quit. I’ve gone through periods that I don’t drink. I’ve started practicing Yoga a few years ago with the intention of that helping.

What’s your drink of choice?
Beer. In the art scene/music scene it’s really hard to exist without drinking socially. I admire people who can just drink socially.

Whose idea was it for your high school photos to be on the exhibit postcard?
I shot his portrait for his before and after piece that’s in the show. He made this trash suit, which I think is brilliant, for the after picture and he wanted it in the same tradition as his high school photo that we already used for the before picture. He doesn’t like the postcards that feature artwork from the show, so we decided to use the high school photos.