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Ohio Northern’s Elzay Gallery Presents a Yearbook that Has Come to Life by Famed ONU Alumna

Imageby Avani Nadkarni, Sequim Gazette Staff writer
September—Ohio Northern University’s Elzay Gallery of Art is proud to present the installation of “Good Girls 1968” by ONU graduate Marilyn Lysohir, Sept, 30—Nov. 4. A public lecture is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 30, 6:15p.m. in the Wilson Art Center along with an opening reception for the artist from 5:30—7:30p.m. in the Elzay Gallery Lobby.

It’s the ultimate tribute to the end of childhood: carefully crafted sculptures of each of the 163 girls—now women—of Sharon High School’s class of 1968, all handmade by a former classmate.

Moscow, Idaho, artist and a 1972 graduate of Ohio Northern University, Marilyn Lysohir came up with the time-consuming idea after running into an old Sharon High School classmate at a gas station on a trip to her hometown.

After returning to her Idaho home, where she has been living with her husband, former Washington State University art professor Ross Coates, Lysohir dug out her senior year yearbook, The Mirror, and put a familiar face to the near-stranger she’d run into.

Four years after first coming up with the idea, Lysohir finished the 13 dozen faces. She used a prototype clay mold for each head, carved their individual features and finished by carving each name into the figure.

“She said the noses were a little tricky for her because it’s hard to see the pictures,” Seniuk said of the black-and-white, often-blurry yearbook-style photos that Lysohir used.

Lysohir debuted her installation, named “Good Girls,” [in 2007] at the Washington State University Art Museum, and, according to Port Angeles Fine Arts Center director Jake Seniuk, it was around that time that she began to have a burning curiosity about what the women she had so carefully sculpted were now.

One by one, Seniuk said, Lysohir, who now owns the Moscow candy shop Cow Girl Chocolates, began tracking down and contacting her old classmates. Many had stayed in Sharon and others had moved to other parts of the country. One, Linda Di Fiore, was a successful opera singer and a professor of music at the University of North Texas. Another had been an editor at Time Life. Four of the classmates flew to Pullman to be present at the exhibit’s opening. Seven of the women, Lysohir learned, had passed away, and she honors them by placing roses behind their sculptures…

“It reminds me of the Vietnam (Veteran’s Memorial) Wall,” Seniuk said. “The scale and the big vastness.”

Seniuk, who also graduated in 1968, said part of the importance to him is the fact that it was a big year historically.

“1968 was an explosive year, it was a pivotal year in U.S. history,” Seniuk said. “These women probably ended up being the girlfriends, the wives and sisters of young men who did go (to the Vietnam War). The exhibit sort of represents the end of childhood. I don’t know if Marilyn intended that or not.”

Multimedia group Buffalo Girls Productions is making a DVD, “Good Girl,” on Lysohir’s journey of making the sculptures.

“When I look at (“Good Girls”) I realize that it’s the first time that I really documented people so that they exist in real time,” Lysohir said on the video. “That, to me, was important to do.”

Born in 1950 in Sharon, PA, Marilyn studied at Ohio Northern University (B.A. in 1972), at the Centro Internazionale Di Studi in Verona Italy (1970-71) and at Washington State University (M.F.A. in 1979). She has taught at various schools such as the Kansas City Art Institute, the Ohio State University and New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred. In 2000, she was a visiting artist in residence at Ohio Northern University’s department of art & design.

The 2010–11 year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bachelor of Arts degree in art at Ohio Northern University. Growing from a single-discipline school, the department offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts with concentrations in two-dimensions, three-dimensions and art therapy. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is also recognized in the second and third editions of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2010-11 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.

image: detail,  “Good Girls 1968” by Marilyn Lysohir (B.A. 1972), plaster base, clay.