By Michael J. Solender
Ruth Ava Lyons travels the globe to find and depict the underlying beauty in ecosystems that are stressed and suffering from the effects of global warming and human actions.
“Most of my work focuses on environmental themes, such as coral reef decay, wildfires, coal ash spills, wetland erosion and monarch migration,” Lyons said. “I attempt to balance the negative aspects of this underlying concept with a positive depiction of beauty. This approach promotes a redemptive message of conservation and renewal as ways to deal with the challenges we face restoring the natural world we have disrupted. This puts me in an honored position of being an ambassador of sorts for communicating the urgency of conservation action.”
Many know Lyons as cofounder of Center of the Earth Gallery, the perennial award-winning contemporary and modern art gallery in the heart of NoDa. Lyons ran the gallery for 22 years with her partner, sculptor Paul Sires, before it closed in 2010.
A self-described art “maker,” Lyons says she creates art because she is compelled to do so.
“There is really no choice in the matter,” says Lyons. “Whether it is a whisper or shout of expression, I feel compelled to share it through my work. My relationship with the natural world has provided a sense of healing and refuge for me.”
Lyon’s mixed media works – bold and dramatic and inspired by the wide variety of environments that touch her soul – have been featured in solo exhibitions at the Hidell Brooks Gallery, the University of South Carolina, Appalachian State University, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and many others. As an arts educator, Lyons has taught at Central Piedmont Community College, Community School of the Arts and Winthrop University.
She’s taken part in several residency programs, including the Heron Island Research Station Artist Residency at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Everglades National Park Artist in Residence Program and, this year, in Brazil at the Casa Na Ilha Residency Program, where she explored the Atlantic rainforest. She was recently tapped to participate on an expedition to the North Pole in 2019 with The Artic Circle, an arts and science incubator.
“I look to use the ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship to advance Oceanic Alchemies, a specific body of work that depends on research, advanced dive experience, and underwater photography skills,” Lyons says, noting she’s planning on taking a master underwater photography workshop in the Raja Ampat Islands, an Indonesian archipelago.
Lyons’ pursuit of capturing the beauty in nature’s fragility is noble, inspirational and shows the powerful and redemptive messaging art can convey.