A Painter’s Life is a rare glimpse into the mind of an uncompromising painter. Mari Lyons was a life-long “every-day” painter and from an early journal she kept for a short time she reveals the heartbreaks, the pain of rejection, the intense and abiding love of her work, and the quiet triumphs of a painter juggling the demanding life of a mother of four, a busy husband, constant financial pressure; she had a fierce desire to make ever-better work, and for her work to become more visible in the world. Later talks she gave at the Munson William Proctor Institute and Rider University frame the journal entries with the aesthetic concepts that animate her work. This look at her inner life is made more palpable by a selection of more than eighty-five representative paintings in color, along with sketches and photographs.
Mari studied with Max Beckmann as a teenager, and later at Bard College, Yale-Norfolk, and with Stanley William Hayter. Her early work received high praise in college and from her first exhibition at the Polari Gallery in Woodstock when she was nineteen and still a student. She married at twenty-one, had three children in as many years, and then moved from the Midwest to New York City, where her fourth child was born.
At first influenced by the Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s, she painted non-objectively but soon found the rich thingness of the world irresistible and her work developed into what she called “painterly figuration.” Her journals and notes reveal the intimate details of her long mediation between these two commitments. In time she exhibited regularly at the First Street Gallery in Chelsea and received praise in such places as The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Sun, Forbes FYI, and elsewhere. Today her paintings are in The Museum of the City of New York, The New York State Museum, Bard College, The Montana Historical Society, Mills, Wellesley, and Russell Sage colleges, The Montana Museum of Art, and many other museums and private collections.