NED grad brings artwork back to county


Ellen Starr Lyon

JASPER — Armed with a brush and palette, Ellen Starr Lyon specializes in bringing universal human emotions to life. She’s always looking for them.

She’s captured the man, with his chest hunched over a yellow inflatable in a swimming pool, as he grinned and stared lovingly. The teenager who, overwhelmed by the things that can overwhelm a young man, buried his face in his hands. The woman who stared fiercely ahead with no fear.

“Person to person, what are the emotions that we feel on a daily basis that are universal to most of us?” she said of what inspires her artwork. “How can I show that so that when a person sees a painting of mine, they don’t need to know who it is that I’m painting, but hopefully that emotion that I’ve tried to depict comes through and they understand it on a really gut level. An emotional level.”

Classes at Northeast Dubois High School led Lyon to become the figurative painter she is today. As she prepares to enter the next chapter of her long career, art created by the Columbus native — who now lives in Bloomington — will take over the Krempp Gallery at the Jasper Arts Center during the month of November.

Lyon graduated from Northeast Dubois in 1992, and she currently works as a conservation technician at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, which is located on the Indiana University campus.

After graduating from IU with degrees in painting and art history, Lyon painted still life paintings as she wed and started a family.

About three years ago, as her kids grew older and more independent, she pushed herself to paint every day. Whether it was one hour or four hours, she flexed her creativity and dove back into classes that shaped her figurative painting skills.

“Once it came together, it was like a watershed moment,” Lyon said. “Me kind of having this homecoming feeling of getting back to the figure. It just lit me up. And I got all this energy and excitement, and I could see that in the work.”

Her art helped her rediscover her authentic self, what she wanted to create and who she wanted to become. Now, she’s focusing on showing her creations outside of the state and all over the country — attracting fresh sets of eyes to her oil-covered canvases.

“As far as my art-making, I want to continue to learn and go to workshops, and really push the boundaries of what I’m doing,” Lyon said. “Where I really want to get to is where I’m making multi-figure, larger paintings.”

Her work has already been hung at galleries in Chicago, Denver, Wisconsin and more.

She credited the Krempp Gallery for creating an audience for the fine arts, as well as the role it plays in exposing Dubois County residents to many different types of art.

She hopes to inspire younger viewers who visit her exhibition and remind them that living artists do exist. If they have the interest and passion, it’s a path that is open to them, Lyon said.

“There are still artists out there making work,” she stressed. “We’re not just historical figures. We’re real-life people that find this work compelling, and satisfying and challenging.”

The items in Lyon’s show will be on display and available for purchase through Wednesday, Nov. 27. The Krempp Gallery is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, until 7 p.m. on Thursdays, and from noon to 3 p.m. Sundays. Lyon will lead a gallery talk from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14.

More of Lyon’s artwork can be found online here.

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