Questioning our planet's human dominance, Kat Lyons' paintings depict animals and creatures during a period of ecological devastation.Read More
Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1991, Kat Lyons received a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2019 and the Shandaken Paint School in 2020.
Kat Lyons brings an almost baroque whimsy to the zoological figures in her paintings. Her compositions explore the destructive ramifications of industrialisation on plant and animal life, questioning the validity of an anthropocentric worldview—particularly when it leads to extinction.
However, despite these prefacing polemics Lyons' work avoids any immediate didacticism. Rather, the artist captures a lesser-known beauty in ecological decline, rendering animals in various states of unspooling or coming apart. At first glance, the artist's compositions bear a resemblance to Grimm-style illustration—but on closer inspection (and much like Grimm fables) their darker underlay becomes apparent. Densely figurative and often given to autumnal palettes—signifying decay—Lyons' body of work is one with a very deliberate and timely message.
In Kat Lyons' first solo exhibition, Memory of a Monolith (2019) at New Image Art in Los Angeles, the artist explored the idea of wisdom being a gift of only age itself. Through this lens, Lyons imagined an amorphous menagerie of animal figures. Rather than exalted through the human gaze, the figures appear distorted—coming apart and disintegrating. Arguably, these compositions speak to the vanishing memory of an ecosystem in decline, and grief for what was once presumed a given and permanent resource for human society.
Taking this further, and working as always from a standing of storytelling, Lyons' 2020 exhibition Pantomimia examined the negligible distance between non-human and human sensibilities, primarily through the suggestion that the former are no less susceptible to machinations of fear, mystery, or dread. The exhibition presents animals, insects, birds, and plant life in variously psychedelic and enigmatic forms: works such as Penetralia (2020) and Been Feeling, Softened Through (2020) respectively depict the head of an ape and a pair of pansies rendered in a transparent, iridescent film, while Adopted Ceremony (2019) shows what appears to be stripes falling from a terrified zebra.
Lyons has also worked on a series of paintings interpreting her experiences staying on a livestock farm. Her observations about slaughtering animals for meat-manufacture are filtered through the same abject horror as earlier works—namely, her horror at wilfully ruinous ecological practices and their disregard for the wellbeing of non-human intelligences. These works show livestock splayed in physical impossibilities, florid allegories for their industrial torture. In Seams of the Interior (2021), a steer gazes towards its flayed double, while its scalp reveals to viewers an exposed brain bearing an emblematic icon of a bull.
Where Memory of a Monolith interpreted barbaric dominion over the animal kingdom with poetic licence, Lyons' later works are more overt in their exploration of grotesquery and body horror, finding an unlikely sublimity in abjection.
In July 2021, Kat Lyons accepted representation with Pilar Corrias.
Lyons' solo shows include Kat Lyons, Pilar Corrias, London (2021); Pantomimia, Deli Gallery, New York (2020); Kat Lyons, NADA Miami, Deli Gallery, New York; and Memory of a Monolith, New Image Art, Los Angeles (2019).
Her group shows include Speech Sounds, Real Pain, New York (2020); We Introduce Ourselves to Planets and Flowers, MakeRoom.LA, Los Angeles (2020); Lalarium, Deli Gallery, New York (2019); Pack Den Badeanzug Ein, Galerie Kornfeld, Berlin (2019); and Our Souls to Keep, Field Projects, New York (2018).
Kat Lyons' Instagram can be found here.
Samuel Te Kani | Ocula | 2021