Ruth Ava Lyons aka Miss X, has lived in Charlotte for over thirty years and has profoundly impacted the arts community. She and her partner Paul Sires are credited for developing the Noda neighborhood into the arts district it is today, and they also owned Center of the Earth Gallery there for many years. Her beautiful artwork is a lifelong, intuitive and graceful look at the human impact on the environment. We are very glad to share a bit of her work and words with you here today.
HappningsCLT: Describe yourself in three words.
Ruth Ava Lyons: Flux, Searching, Sullen
HCLT: When did you realize you were an artist?
RAL: When I watched mom work on a tacky fill in the number image of a Hindu goddess and thought I could do better.
HCLT: Who or what inspires you artistically?
RAL: As a hoopdancer/fire performer, I am fascinated by the way performance engages people on a level that is quite different than the visual arts, so I keep my eye on a variety of performance artists who I have been grateful to have studied with. I am obsessed with all the toys/props used in flow arts and how the body and movement can communicate the sublime and what it is to be human. The bodywear and adornment enhance the experience as well and channel my interest into areas like fashion and theatre. Burning Man was my ultimate mind expanding experience, where flow and visual artists feel embraced, stimulated and celebratory.
HCLT: Tell us about your current body of work.
RAL: I have focused on my Oceanic Alchemies series for several years; this is a body of work that is a result of my scuba trips to reefs that are threatened by the effects of global warming. All my work explores environmental themes. Whether that be wildfires, coal ash spills, wetland degradation or conservation of the everglades, I respond to issues that grab me. The work I am showing at Hidell Brooks Gallery in November/December is the Monarch Sightings Series. I was compelled to call attention to the dire situation of the dwindling annual Monarch butterfly migration.The continued threat to the Monarchs survival is due to deforestation, climate change, and increased use of herbicides on herbicide tolerant crops (GMOs) that kills the important Milkweed plant where the Monarch typically lays its eggs. The art looks pretty, but it symbolizes a deadly and powerful precedent whereby we are upsetting the delicate balance in nature.
HCLT: What do you think is the most valuable art experience in the Carolinas right now?
RAL: Expo216 in Wilmington is an anomaly. Their exhibits and art are theme-driven, focusing on a single social or environmental issue per exhibit. The museum component consists of informative panels, media loops, and commissioned art that establish the theme. The current show “Ocean Plastic” has a very interesting delivery of a critical social/environmental issue in a highly digestible format.
HCLT: What is your number one art piece/place/event in this area?
RAL: I am biased. I love the monumental hand carved granite sculptural seating works outside of the Time Warner Arena.They were created by my partner Paul Sires.He is one of a handful of sculptors in this country who work in this medium which is extremely difficult. He does all the work himself while other artists rely on the quarry to fashion the stone.I admire his vision and I think Charlotte is lucky to have several of his works.
HCLT: What book is on your nightstand right now?
RAL: I am a gemini, so I like balance of opposites
- Rachel Carson, Witness for Nature
- Madhu Khanna, Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity
HCLT: Best meal in the Charlotte area?
RAL: Our go-to has always been Ben Thanh, but today it’s onion soup at Crepe Cellar. And tomorrow it’s martinis and appetizers at Carpe Diem, and don’t forget Le’s banh mi! But what I crave is the Jewish soul food of my youth… not available here.
HCLT: Where can we see your work?
RAL: In Charlotte at Hidell Brooks Gallery I always have a good variety of work. I also have a few public artwork commissions around town, including the new Blue Line Extension light rail station at 36th street in Noda in collaboration with sculptor Paul Sires opening in 2017, and at Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art in Greensboro and by appt only at X Foundation in Noda. 24/7 at http://www.ruthavalyons.com.
HCLT: What is up next?
RAL: I hope Poke is next in charlotte. Poke (pronounced poh-keh), a raw-fish salad that comes from Hawaii. I was recently introduced to it in Los Angeles and can live on that stuff.
As far as my activities, I had the opportunity of receiving a grant that supported an underwater photography workshop this past summer in Cozumel, so I am scheming my next adventure on a live aboard photography dive trip in Micronesia. I am also looking at my next artist residency in a Biological station located in an Amazonian forest in South America.