Portals: Jeanne Lyons’ Show at ArtSpring August 2016

At the entrance to her current show of drawings and sculptures at ArtSpring, Jeanne Lyons greets the visitor with a verbal introduction as dense and suggestive as the visuals lining the gallery’s labyrinthine walls:

¦ the pieces in this exhibit portray portals, doorways into other realms, of one kind or another. Compassionate curiosity and a willingness to suspend what we think we know can lead us into unknown lands where we discover a much vaster world. Anything that we experience in the moment, whether we consider it “positive” or “negative,” can be a portal when approached in this way.

Following her direction, at the bottom of the stairway leading downward my gaze was drawn by “portal #4,” an image I recognized from the tiny version I’d seen on the Gallery’s website.


Its flat bilateral and concentric symmetry focused on a blank pink central bullseye. But soon the cool geometry of curved and pointed shapes gave way to a thick surface texture of scratches and hand-applied pigment. Then, as another passage of the artist’s statement came to mind, the whole image popped into three dimensions:

I have been a midwife for over 30 years. Currently I am an instructor in the Midwifery Program at the University of British Columbia. Midwifery is an art and a science. In this field, an area of particular interest to me is incorporation of the arts into the teaching of health care.

Whether intended or not, this “doorway into other realms” struck me as the portal between prenatal and postnatal life, regarded from either side.

The adjacent portal, titled “Alchemical Gate,” appeared as another variation of the same visual and conceptual themes.


Both receding from and radiating toward the viewer, its vibrant colors conveyed the fiery energy of transformation pulsing into and out of its center. The representational suggestion here was of a red Tori gate, the portal of a Shinto temple that marks “the boundary between sacred world of the shrine and the profane world outside”–both an invitation and a barrier. http://www.nihonbunka.com/shinto/blog/archives/000051.html

Portal 2, the third in the series on this wall, offered me no entry into “unknown lands.” But its vibrant colors, wildly flittering crayon strokes, and hints of vibrating body shapes expressed a pure explosive energy.


Portal 3, completing the series on this wall, was the most sedate of gateways.


It strengthened the emphasis on vertical and bilateral symmetry of the first two portals, superimposing and melding their circular and perpendicular structures into a kind of mandala: “a diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically…” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandala  At the center of this piece’s concentric circles lay a doorway-shaped rectangle within which appeared schematic human figures of diminishing size nested and receding toward the vanishing point. Could this, I wondered, be a representation of the chain of generations–through the gate of birth, as in Portal 4, or through the gate of death depicted as a set of occupied coffins?

This show includes about 25 additional pieces, each of them mysterious, haunting, and highly crafted. All of them open portals: into the artist’s dreams, into the visual languages of native myths, and into the horrors of environmental and humanitarian cruelty around the globe.

One Response to “Portals: Jeanne Lyons’ Show at ArtSpring August 2016”

  1. Jan Marx Says:

    Superb review. Sensitive and insightful.

Leave a Reply