Above: Untitled, 1990s. Mitch Lyons (1938-2018). Clay monoprint, 17 x 37 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2012. © Estate of Mitch Lyons.
Mitch Lyons worked as a traditional potter until 1980, the pivotal point in his career when he refined his method of printing directly from clay. Experimental forms of printmaking have been pervasive throughout the history of art; however, never before has such an inventive matrix, medium, and process been utilized for image transfer. Lyons began by wetting the stoneware clay slab he used for nearly 40 years. He created imagery using fairly conventional ceramic decoration techniques. Lyons poured clay slips of various colors directly onto the surface and drew, painted, or cut directly into the clay with a variety of traditional and unexpected tools—brushes, stencils, and cookie cutters. After framing the desired image with drywall tape, the artist pulled a thin layer of clay that is permanently embedded in the fibers of Reemay—a DuPont-engineered polyester fabric that Lyons preferred as his support. The distinct nature of the medium and technique ensured the uniqueness of each print.
Infinite Avenues of Artistic Expression
Like most traditional potters, Lyons was motivated by a love for the material and described himself as a “clay person making prints,” though he also created pots and mixed media sculpture. Chance was an inherent part of his technique, which reminds one of surrealist automatic drawings and the incorporation of chance procedures embraced by artists like John Cage, who worked in the 1950s. Lyons sought to achieve a “balance between spontaneity and structure” and captured in his work the sense of energy and intuition he embraced in the studio.
Mitch Lyons: The Hand Translated continues the Delaware Art Museum’s Distinguished Artist Series and celebrates the artist’s unique creative endeavors. Artists in the series have made an impact through their artistic practices, teachings, and support of our community. Lyons embraced the roles of mentor and teacher, sharing his knowledge and technique for the advancement of ceramics, printmaking, and all choices in-between.
Senior Artists Initiative
The Delaware Art Museum worked with the Philadelphia-based Senior Artists Initiative and Richard Weisgrau to create an intimate documentary of the artist’s life. With the help of artists Dennis Ambrogi and John Baker, stories were gathered together from Lyons’ family, friends, and colleagues. Watch Mitch Lyons: The Hand Translated to see Lyons’ demonstrate his unique process and talk about his artistic inspirations, in addition to hearing interviews by those who were influenced by his creative process.
Above, left to right: Untitled, 1980s. Mitch Lyons (1938-2018). Clay monoprint, sheet: 33 3/4 × 34 3/4 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2012. © Estate of Mitch Lyons. | Untitled pot, not dated. Mitch Lyons (1938-2018). Ceramic, 10 3/8 x 6 ½ inches. Collection of the Estate of Mitch Lyons. © Estate of Mitch Lyons. Photograph by Carson Zullinger.