Ashley Lyon, Mother (Installation View), via Art Observed
For the second edition of Upstate Art Weekend in the Hudson Valley, Elijah Wheat Showroom presented “Tender Temper,” a solo exhibition featuring ceramic works by the artist Ashley Lyon that explore the complexities of motherhood. Foregrounding the human figure, Lyon enacts enlarged, fragmented representations of maternal bodies, placed into surreal positions that complement the elaboration of surreal, disjunctive narratives. While these corporeal sculptures are rooted in the ultra-personal and often tender domain of the maternal, the truncated and generalized forms simultaneously operate with a universal quality. Lyon, who sculpts entirely by hand rather than using life-casts, harnesses the materiality of clay to imbue the surfaces of the bodily forms with a tactile quality, her direct intervention evident.
Ashley Lyon, Bench (Installation View), via Art Observed
Lyon mines Alexandra Sacks’s notion of “matrescence,” or “the birth of the mother.” Exploring the physical and psychological changes that accompany pregnancy, childbirth and early childrearing, Lyon considers the turbulent transition into motherhood as akin to the charged shifts that define adolescence. Lyon reflects upon the “simultaneity of the mother’s experience, at once breathtaking, beautiful, confusing, and grueling.” These works honor the procreative power of the maternal body while conveying the instability and ambiguity that pervade such a profound transformation. The sculptor evokes the sentimentality of childbearing while underscoring the physical disorientation and psychological weight of motherhood. The mothering body is positioned as the laboring body with use value, for example in Bench (2021), where the bisected torso is framed as a seat.
Ashley Lyon, Lovers’ Knot (Installation View), via Art Observed
Ashley Lyon, Mountain (2021), via Elijah Wheat Showroom
Lyon transcends traditional figuration through a rich visual rhetoric of ropes, knots and anchors to reflect upon notions of filial dependence. A heap of tangled ropes renders tangible the intimate link between mother and child, while conjuring associations with the umbilical cord as a crucial source of vitality. These intertwining ropes prompt consideration of the bond tethering mother and child both in utero and ex utero. The cleat imagery—which perhaps underscores the supportive function presupposed in motherhood—takes on particular weight in this context of the display within a factory alongside the Hudson River where barges pass.
Ashley Lyon, Wishbone (2021), via Elijah Wheat Showroom
Ashley Lyon, via Elijah Wheat Showroom
– A. Chisholm
Ashley Lyon: Tender Temper [Exhibition Site]