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Ohio Northern graduate showcases ‘Flower Girls’ installation in Oregon

March—The many facets of life were on display at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, Oregon. The installation of pieces was created by Ohio Northern University alumna Marilyn Lysohir (BA/art ’72).

The exhibit by Marilyn, who lives in Moscow, Idaho, featured “The Flower Girls,” a collection of ceramic statues whose bodies are painted with colorful prints and covered in transparent dresses. Other figures were placed throughout the space, with clay figures of women sitting on top of cages, which hold various animals and figurines.

“You can see that she’s got all the different icons that represent what she was feeling at the time, which was joy and passion,” TVCC art instructor Robin Jackson said. “Then there’s also the pain side.”

Jackson said the idea for “The Flower Girls” came from a trip Lysohir took to India, where beautiful women were handing her flowers on one side of her taxi and on the other beggars were asking for sustenance.

“So when you look at her work, you’ll see that there’s Indian influences to it,” Jackson said. “She looks at her art as clues to life, basically.”

Lysohir’s husband, Ross Coates, is also a renowned artist. One of his mediums is tattoos.

“Tattoos are always going to end up somehow in [her work],” Jackson said. “‘The Flower Girls’ is an interplay of pattern design but also as body art. She actually would put a dress in, but it would be transparent.”

Originally, Jackson brought Lysohir to Treasure Valley Community College to teach a workshop in ceramics, but the two agreed that her exhibit should appear at the school as well. It was on display from December through February.

Jackson said he feels lucky to have the exhibit and believes learning how to understand art is an avenue to understanding life.

“It’s like either looking at someone just walking down the street or investigating them, developing a love affair with them, or whatever it may be, then you get the richness,” Jackson explained.

“We use this as our vehicle to say, this is how you should live life. Live it artfully. Investigate people. Understand them. Walk in their shoes.”

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, Good Girls 1968 in 2003, and her most recent work, Flower Girls.

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.

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 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.