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Talk art to me—Ohio Northern graduate featured in Idaho Triennial Exhibition

By Emily Vaartstra
July—Behind every photo, painting, sculpture or self-made video, there is a story to be told and one Ohio Northern University Art & Design graduate shared her stories with Idaho.

Marilyn Lysohir (BA/art ’72), along with three other artists, was honored for her exemplary artwork in the Boise Art Museum’s (BAM) 2013 Idaho Triennial Exhibition.

Catherine Rakow, a curatorial assistant at the BAM, said a guest juror from the Portland Art Museum chose 65 art pieces from 40 Idaho artists selected from the original 222 applicants to be featured in this prestigious Idaho exhibition.

“It’s a big deal for (these artists) to be shown in a credited museum,” Rakow said. “Everybody’s work is different and that’s one of the challenges of the Triennial, or any group show, is putting all these different mediums and different ideas together to where it becomes a cohesive exhibit.”

Though many Moscow, Idaho locals may recognize Marilyn as the mastermind behind Cowgirl Chocolates, they may not know Lysohir’s first passion was art.

For years, Marilyn has been creating elaborate sculptures out of clay and ceramics. Marilyn created the artistic series called “The Flower Girls.” The collection includes figurative pieces with flowers tattooed sculptures and a second set of pieces featuring metal hoop skirts containing objects to represent different things happening inside the hoops. Out of the 11 hoop figures she created, two were submitted and featured in the Triennial.

“One had a Budda’s head that I made out of clay and that was under the hoop dress,” Marilyn said. “Another one I did was an antique iron door stop that my grandmother had that was of a female figure. I had that one underneath (the hoop) with a little iron stand and then these very delicate ceramic flowers that were surrounding this figure.”

Marilyn said the idea for the hoops came from a friend of hers who collects early 20th century lamps — where the head of figure rests on the cloth-covered hoop of the lamp.

“The theme was flower girls and when I was really little my aunt said, ‘When I get married, you can be a flower girl,’ and I was so excited, but when she got married she picked (a different) niece,” she said. “So in a way, it was kind of 55 years later you do a body of work that balances out that disappointment. It was kind of a homage to that idea of the little flowers girls to the idea of feminine strength and beauty.”

Marilyn said most of her work is inspired by memories of growing up as a child.

“Life just takes you on an adventure,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a fun adventure, sometimes it isn’t. But you learn from everything thing that happens and sometimes the non-fun things are the most important things that you have to learn. Art is a gift and way of sharing (life) with people.”

Born in Sharon, PA, Marilyn studied at Ohio Northern University, at the Centro Internazionale Di Studi in Verona Italy (1970-71) and at Washington State University (MFA 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.

During the 1980s, Marilyn earned a reputation as one of the country’s foremost ceramics artists. Her career gained momentum with pieces like The Fourth Sister, which featured three different brides looking at three different wedding cakes, and The Alligator’s Wife, a ceramic version of herself lying atop a 15-foot ceramic alligator.

In 1984, she landed her first solo show in Los Angeles, featuring Bad Manners. After the piece sold, Marilyn was granted a second solo show for which she created The Dark Side of Dazzle, the battleship that she says commemorates her father’s time as a soldier in World War II.

Other works of note include The Last Immigrant completed in the late 1980s, The Tattooed Ladies and the Dinosaur in the early 1990s, and a recent work of art, Good Girls 1968, an installation of 163 individually sculpted heads of the girls with whom Marilyn graduated from high school in 1968.

Marilyn also is an entrepreneur who turned what she loved into a livelihood—chocolate. She is the owner of Cowgirl Chocolates, a company that successfully sells chocolate infused with chili peppers.

Ohio Northern University’s quality, student-centered education distinctively combines nationally ranked sciences, arts and professional programs for more than 3,500 students in its five colleges: Arts & Sciences, Business Administration, Engineering, Pharmacy and Law.

Originally designated as the School of Fine Arts and later the College of Fine Arts, the art & design program was first established as an independent academic unit at Ohio Northern in 1878, largely as an outgrowth of course work in engineering and architectural drawing. Today, Ohio Northern 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-dimensional, three-dimensional and pre-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, AIGA: The Professional Association for Design, and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is recognized in the “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 2014–15 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.

image: Marilyn Lysohir, Flower Girls—Alligator, 2013
clay, metal, enamel, 24 x 20 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm)