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Sculpture Garden Blooms
by Danielle Farnbagh
You can call him "Cornelius." You can call him "Pepsi."
You can call him "Ross." "Pepsi" is his childhood nickname,
Ross Lyon is his professional name. But, whatever you call Cornelius F. Lyon Jr.
of Acker Road in Horseheads, you can also use the words "The
Prolific," as in "The Prolific Cornelius Lyon."
Since he began working as a metal sculptor in 1984, Lyon has created 158
metal sculptures. In the past year, he's been working at the tempo of one
sculpture each weekend. During the week, the 51 year old teaches reading at
Watkins Glen Middle School.
All the sculptures are in the outdoor sculpture garden that wraps around his
house. The sculpture garden and house are included in the 40 acres of woods,
wildflowers and meandering paths that Lyon calls home.
His living room window looks out on the yellow, black and red abstract
sculpture depicting Achilles, complete with a spear in his ankle. That was
Lyon's first sculpture. "I'll never do anything that heavy again," he
says of the cast iron sculpture. Like his later works, Achilles is made of
"found materials," large pieces of scrap metal that Lyon collects from
scrap yards, factory sales, friends and acquaintances.
Lyon is a man who's never done anything halfway. He use to write songs.
"I was a songwriter for 10 years. I've got them stacked up that high,"
he says, holding his hand at his waist. He figures he's written about 500 songs.
"But not one of them ever got published ...But my kids think they're going
to cash in on them when I die," Lyon says with a sigh. When he decided to
stop writing songs, he started another project-building his won house from the
In 1980 and 1981, he took courses at Schuyler-Chemung-Tioga BOCES on
framing, plumbing, electricity, you name it. Then he had the house foundation
poured professionals and completed the rest of the work himself. Once the house
was done, Lyon got itchy for another project. "I was always interested in
art and when I saw this abstract work while I was in college, I became even more
interested," Lyon says.
A trip to the Storm King outdoor sculpture garden in Newbury, N.Y., sparked
a desire to create his own art. "I said, 'I'm going to have my own
sculpture garden,'" he said. So he went back to class.
I did my homework right this time. I took welding courses; I saw all the art
shows," Lyon says. Recently, he added an auto refinishing course at Corning
Community College to his curriculum. Future Lyon sculptures will have a high
gloss, sports car-like finish. Until now, Lyon's sculptures have stayed put in
his sculpture garden. But one, Nuclear Cardinal, was in this year's
Annual Regional Art Exhibition at the Arnot Art Museum. Lyon is hopeful that
other sculptures will soon be leaving the fold. Repeated inquiries to New York
City galleries have finally yielded two invitations for Lyon to submit more
information on his work. "I'm only one gallery away from taking that step
up. I'm so pleased I could spit nickels," Lyon says.
Lyon's work is filled with symbolism: clock symbols, marking 8:15 (the time
when Hiroshima was bombed) and 10:59 (when Nagasaki was bombed); trinities;
missiles and imaginary post nuclear war objects and animals. One work represents
the psychologist Sigmund Freud. "That's Freud. See the crooked nose?
Remember? If you have a crooked nose, you're neurotic. All those things Freud
taught us," Lyon says, adding a tinge of sarcasm to his voice. He says he
doesn't hold much trust in modern psychology.
But the home-building, self-taught artist does trust Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance.
"I've read that book over and over again," he says. "I've done
this the old-fashioned way. No money. No training. No encouragement."
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