Across the Chemung County line, not far off the Ridge Road, lie the most unusual 30 acres in the Finger Lakes region. It isn't the lovely, fragrant white pines that make it unusual, nor the stately oaks, nor the occasional patches of raspberry bushes. Neither is it the moss-covered pathways winding through the area, nor sun-dappled ferns, nor the quiet, shaded bowers that invite the visitor to stop and rest for a moment. None is so rare in this region. Rather, it is the inhabitants that make the place so unusual. For these woods are the home of The C Lyon Sculpture Gardens.
Throughout the rolling, wooded lands over 200 steel sculptures stand, each by itself, alone, some just off the trail, others well back in little glades, still others along cleared circles or loops off the main path. At first, the visitor may be slightly startled to encounter such geometric hardness and angular severity hiding behind the softness of pine boughs. But soon that initial surprise gives way to a sense of belonging - the sculptures do not intrude upon the forest, but complement it - welcome addition to a magic wonderland - inanimate creatures which have found a home among the sheltering trees!
Ross Lyon, known to many as a teacher of reading in Watkins Glen Middle School for the past 21 years, is the artist and owner of this fascinating display. To date he has created 240 pieces, having begun in 1984. He disciplines himself with a strict schedule, setting a goal of completing one per week between march 15th and January 31, February and early March being to wintry for the demanding outdoor work necessary to complete each piece and erect in place.Using scrap metals, mostly steel, from various sources, he gathers, selects, shapes, and welds his materials in order to achieve a balanced sculpture that will not only become an attractive object in itself, but also express an idea or feeling that he experiences as he works. According to T.S. Eliot's "objective correlative", a work of art expresses the artist's emotion in such a manner as to evoke that same emotion in the observer. Lyon, following this principle, employees certain shapes and images to suggest his themes. He often uses circles or discs as clock images to suggest his themes. He often uses circles or discs as clock images to convey a sense of the passage of time, or particular points in time, adding a fourth dimension to the three visible dimensions. Some of his "clocks" subtly indicate the time of 8:15 or 10:59, the moments of nuclear explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
Ross has experimented at times with wire, wagon wheels, chains, and cast iron, but now works chiefly with various pieces of scrap steel. He came to feel that some of his early work, which tended to "hug the ground", was too stiff and lacked grace. It couldn't be associated with man. Now he favors height, most of his newer work being six to eight feet high. This permits him to create sweeping lines and employs shapes which can suggest such themes as the circle of life, the triumph of good over evil, metaphysical unity, or the Buddhist admonition, "Be alert." His chief aim is "to capture movement is space - to create something never before seen."
He continues to experiment with color. Many of his pieces have rusted, a condition he welcomes as a step in the artistic process. At a particular stage, he has taken some sculptures to be professionally sandblasted, then filled with fiber-glass and sanded down to perfectly smooth surfaces, after which a series of special paints and finishes are applied. He has made an intensive study of this process, still seeking the ideal finish. His experimenting with fluorescent paints has resulted in several of his works appearing bright red, blue, green, or even pink, the most startling members of the forest family.
Ross seems almost driven in his pursuit of artistic expression. Not only has he created these massive steel sculptures, and carved out a natural exhibition hall in the woods for them, but also has written several volumes of poetry and over 500 folk songs. From 1971 to 1981 he wrote on song per week, regularly! His first volume of poetry, "The Ballad of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Other Poems," was published recently by Herzig Printing and Publishing of Watkins Glen, and has been added to the collection of several NY State college libraries. A second book will be issued soon. He writes under the partial nom-de-plume, "The C Lyon".
Mr. Lyon welcomes visitors to his Sculpture Garden. Visitors come nearly every week, adding their names to the rapidly filling visitors' register which he keeps. Where will it all end? Who knows? Most of the pieces are too heavy and bulky to easily truck off to a gallery for display. Meanwhile, there's plenty of room for additional members of this mute, growing family to take their places in this unique corner of the world, to exist quietly and serenely, out of time and space, awaiting the eye of the beholder. Ross Lyon, the artist, continues to work, creating beauty, striving for an ideal which is ever in his vision.