RIO GRANDE, Ohio —Kevin Lyles, a resident of Rio Grande and an instructor of several art classes at the University of Rio Grande, is not just teaching about art to eager students, but he is living as a working artist.
Much of Lyles’ work is influenced by the textures, contrasts, patterns and contradictions found in nature.
“When creating sculptures I combine these natural properties with the elements and principles of design to create work that both interests and challenges me,” stated Lyles.
About 10 years ago Lyles’s friend, Fletcher Benton, who is also an acclaimed artist from Jackson, Ohio inspired Lyles to venture more in the realm of large scale sculptures.
“There are many opportunities in the arts with large scale sculptural pieces,” he said.
Although, Lyles continues to create smaller scale pieces, he started to create more pieces that would be exhibited in sculpture gardens and parks.
“There are many competitions for colleges and parks where these institutions will want to borrow an artist’s piece for a year,” he explained. “If an artist can get work into these competitions for these institutions, many times they will pay an honorarium to the artist and it is a wonderful opportunity.”
Much of Lyles work is displayed in both Ohio and West Virginia. A few of his sculptures can be viewed in Gallia County on the grounds of the University of Rio Grande. Lyles also has an outdoor sculpture at the Huntington Museum of Art.
Lyles exhibited a sculpture in the South Bend Museum of art in Indiana which was there for a year. Then this particular piece of art made it’s way to the University of Indianapolis where they bought this piece and it is part of the university’s permanent art collection.
Lyles has work in locations across the country, he has a piece called, “Last Dance” which is in West Virginia University in front of the Creative Arts Center. This piece was a commissioned piece. In between doing commissioned work, Lyles continued to enter competitions for institutions to borrow his work. Much of his work was sent all across the United States. Some of these places would borrow his work for a set period of time and others would end up purchasing his work.
In 2012, Lyles took a sabbatical from the university. The proposal for his sabbatical was to build an outdoor sculpture for the Huntington Museum of Art – this seven foot sculpture can be seen outside in the courtyard of the facility. While Lyles was working on his piece at the museum, Bob Evans Farms commissioned him to do a large outdoor piece for new corporate headquarters in New Albany. A stainless steel with approximately five and a half tons of glacial stone, titled “Farmland Forest.”
Charleston Area Medical Center in Charleston (CAMC) in West Virginia “built a beautiful cancer center,” claimed Lyles. The CAMC had competitions for artwork to be displayed in the center.
“Five pieces were major commissioned pieces for this competition and I applied for one commission piece and they ended up hiring me for four indoor pieces,” he said.
Because CAMC viewed Lyles’ website, they saw he worked with glass. CAMC asked Lyles to create a glass pieces for their cancer center. One of his pieces for the CAMC is a glass relief from a casting of leaves found in the Charleston, W.Va. area. Lyles also created a piece for he breast cancer wing in the infusion center at CAMC. This 13-foot long piece titled,”Riverlife” is a colorful class piece inspired by the Kanawha River and the mountainous area surrounding the river. “Glass is a finicky and an unpredictable medium to work with the “Riverlife” piece took me a long time to complete.”
Two years ago, Lyles applied for an Ohio Arts Council (OCA) open call for competition. Lyles was one of three finalists; after the finalist were selected, the OCA interviewed each candidate. Lyles was chosen out of this interview process to create art which was funded by “percent for art law.” Lyles stated that “the state of Ohio has a percent for art law which means if there is a state funded building that goes over $4 million dollars, by law they have to spend one percent of the cost for that project for the arts.” Lyles received through the OCA an opportunity to create a piece of artwork with the Ohio Agriculture and Research Development Center (OARDC) for Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute (OSUATI). OSUATI is built on 5,000 acre land which was devastated by a tornado six years ago. State funds were utilized for the reconstruction. Lyle’s sculpture was founded by the “percent for arts law” and was titled “Fruit of Inquiry,” which is displayed on the grounds of the OSUATI. It was inspired by agricultural research and development and the tornado that struck the land. The sculpture is surrounded by $300,000 of landscaping with fountains around Lyles outdoor piece.
“Working with the Ohio Arts Council was wonderful and I am very blessed to have been able to work through them,” said Lyles.
Lyles recently received a proclamation of recognition from Ohio Representative Bill Johnson, which was hand delivered to Lyles by Johnson at the University of Rio Grande. The proclamation was on the dedication of Lyle’s sculpture “Fruit of Inquiry” for the OARDC.
Lyles has more work lined up for his future and is currently working on several pieces which will be displayed in Wales for an upcoming project in conjunction with Gallia resident, Benjy Davies. Davies is also a professor of art at the University of Rio Grande. Lyles currently has an artist in residence position at Portsmouth High School.
To get in contact or to view Lyle’s work visit his website kevinlyles.com