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  • A Lyon in the Garden (Mountain Home Magazine, August 2013)  by Martha Horton
 
The sculptures at The C Lyon Sculpture Garden in Horseheads, New York, are unusual, ranging from quirky to eloquent, from start to fanciful. But the whole experience of visiting The C Lyon Sculpture Garden is what qualifies as unique. The garden may be seen by appointment only; The C Lyon himself will be your guide. Lyon's 650 pieces of outdoor abstract painted steel sculptures are planted in seemingly random fashion along winding paths in a forty-acre forest. Some are mounted on stumps, some are placed in small clearings, others are attached to tress, or hanging from tree limbs. You've never seen anything like it.
 

"I don't believe in art for art's sake," Lyon states. There is motive and emotion behind his sculptural creations. A series of his pieces pay homage to individuals in American history, many of them military, ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Lyon tells their stores as he leads the tour: Edward Day Cohota, one of the few Chinese to serve in the Civil War; Private Thompson, a World War II ferry pilot, the only WASP (Women's Air Service Pilot) to be missing-in-service; Jay Zeamer, a pilot in the South Pacific during World War II who received the USAF Medal of Honor for his exploits; Jonas Salk, who discovered penicillin almost accidentally. Another of Lyon’s honorees is Doug Hegdahl, a Navy sailor who was taken prisoner during the Vietnam War. Hegdahl deceived his captors into considering him “The Incredibly Stupid One” while he secretly memorized the names of 256 of his fellow prisoners. He later was able to testify about camp conditions at the Paris Peace Talks.
 

Lyon categorized some of his art “Nuclearism” expressing life under the threat of nuclear holocaust, a concern dating back to his time building bomb shelters in the military. Other “isms” encountered in the C Lyon Sculpture Garden include “Stumperism” the utilization of stumps as pedestals for the pieces, and “Bottleism" sculptures incorporating glass bottles, which in some cultures are believed to ward off evil spirits. Particularly intriguing is “Arborism” the placing of sculptures in trees, these are some of Lyon’s most lyrical pieces, creating a sort of Midsummer Night’s Dream atmosphere. Other “Isms” include “Bambooism” sculptures created with strips and stalks of the bamboo he grows on the property, and, more recently, “Gafferism” combining blown glass with steel. In 2010, Lyon began studying glass blowing in Corning and he has taken a number of specialized courses in succeeding years. He is currently experimenting with yet another material, probably never before used in sculpture: duct tape! (Could this develop into “Ductism?)

At one point during the tour, Lyon customarily gathers visitors into a clearing he calls Poets’ Park. Poets' ParkHere, almost magically, he extracts a guitar form the branches of a tree and sings “The Ballad of JFK. President Kennedy is another of his heroes, and Lyon has published twelve editions of The Ballad of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Other poems. Indeed, the prolific sculptor is also a poet and songwriter, he’s written some 500 folk songs, although none have been published yet, he admits. And Lyon painstakingly makes his own guitars, even soaking the wood in saltwater as Stradivarius did in his violin-making. He has studied lutherie, the art of making stringed musical instruments, at several prestigious schools. The ultimate do-it-yourself-er, Lyon has also built his own house, which is located at the Sculpture Garden site. Lyon took courses in framing, plumbing, wiring, and other necessary skills so that he only needed to farm out the foundation work. Conventional enough on the inside, the home boasts a facade painted in distinctive Lyon-esque fashion with offbeat colors and patterned trim.


An Elmira native, Lyon graduated from high school in 1956 and joined the Air Force a year later. After military service, he graduated from Corning Community College and Mansfield University. He married and began his teaching career at Watkins Glen Middle School. He earned a master’s degree from Elmira College in 1971. Lyon is a true world traveler, and has visited many sculpture gardens in this and other countries. He started his own sculpture garden in 1984. His current goal is to complete 700 sculptures, which will make his the largest sculpture garden in the world. All three of Lyon’s children, Cassandra, Roxanne, and Neil, have served in the United States Navy. Neil, along with his wife and young son, will be joining Lyon in Horseheads later this year. Perhaps Neil will come to share his father’s passion for outdoor sculpture. You can meet the extraordinary The C Lyon at his Website, www.theclyon.com, where he gives a video introduction to the Sculpture Garden. Also at the site are a sampling of the sculptures, a number of articles, which have been written about The C Lyon and the Sculpture Garden, and a detailed chronology. Then you can call him and make an appointment, a tour will take one and a half to two unforgettable hours.

 
  • Creating Unique-ism (Finger Lakes Magazine, 2010)  by Kimberly Price
 
Begun in 1984, the 499-piece sculpture garden created by retired schoolteacher Cornelius Lyon in Horseheads is nearly the largest in the world. It's second only to Brookgreen in Myrtle Beach, which showcases 550 representational sculptures made by more than 300 artists. Lyon's garden covers 44 acres that wrap around his home, and features many works that pay tribute to famous men and women who served their country in profound ways: Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin: Ely Parker, a chief of the Senacas, and Dr. Mary Walker, a surgeon in the Civil War, among others.

The 71-year old was inspired to create his garden over 40 years ago when he visited the Grand Palais in Paris. "It was like being in an extra-terrestrial garden," he said. "I saw a mural for the first time, and abstract art like I never knew existed. I though, someday, I'll have my own museum."
Using scrap metal and skills he picked up in BOCES advanced welding and auto body classes, Lyons got started, "I figured that if I did 500 pieces and wrote more poems than Emily Dickinson, I'd have made a contribution," he said.

Lyon categorizes his sculptures using self-created "isms." "Nuclearism" is one of his historical themes, while "Bambooism" is accomplished using bamboo he grows on his property. There's also "Stumperism" and the newest category. "Bottleism." All are unique and help to differentiate one type of piece from another.

One category, "Arborism," is really special. "Welcome to something you've never seen before." Lyon said, leading me around the garden paths he cut out of the woods himself. When we get to the Arborism section, I see that Lyon has placed more than 100 sculptures in trees. Here, I discovered an element of his work that he calls "cross-fertilization" in which he incorporates an unlikely element into the metal such as his handmade ceramics and glass made by a friend.

It's that "unique-ism" that Lyon strives for. On a visit to New York City he saw metal sculptures that people simply walked past without noticing. "There was nothing to them. They were boring without paint, so I decided to learn how to paint," he said. "My theory is you're never too old to learn."

Lyon works on his garden seven days a week, sandblasting, painting, maintaining, and giving tours. "It's a fulltime job," he says, "and it's pure bliss."

  • Sculptore Adds Guitar Maker to his Artistic Notes (Star Gazette, 2009)  by Jennifer Kingsley
 
Artist Cornelius Lyon may be best known for the outdoor scultper garden that wraps around his house. The garden sits among 40 acres of woods, wildflowers and meandering paths along Acker Road in Veteran. These days, Cornelius can add luthier to his title.
During the winter, Cornelius builds classical guitars. It all started in 1999 when Cornelius retires as a reading teacher with the Watkins Glen School District and focused his attention on his true passion, art.

"I studied under the two best guitar makers in America," he said. First, he was with Kenny Hill in Healdsburg, California. Kenny owns a guitar company and specializes in Spanish and flamenco guitars, according to his Web site at www.hillguitar.com. "I spent 96 hours with Kenny," Cornelius said.

Then, after spending three years on a waiting list, he studied under Charles Fox in Portland, Oregon. From March to October, Cornelius works on pieces for his sculpture garden. To date, he created 479 pieces and hopes to have 500 in place by the end of this summer.
From November to March, Cornelius spends seven days a week working on his guitar, making one a year. It costs him about $400 to make each guitar. "There are about a hundred operations to making a guitar," Cornelius said. "And they all take time."
Plus, the heat and the humidly in the workshop have to be just right or the wood will crack. "I can't tell you how many ended up in the fireplace," he said. He spends hours tweaking the sound, playing in the living room of his home. With its dazzling harmonic content, the dimensional quality and range are impressive.

He also soaks the wood in sea water, which he collects in the ocean, not far from Norfolk, Virginia. "I read once that the reason Stratovarius violins were so special were because the wood was soaked in seawater," Cornelius said. "I have to agree. It does something beautiful to the wood."

Cornelius also adds his own sort of signature to his guitars. "You see this," he pointed toward the neck of the guitar, "I added a third hole. I'm an artist. I had to be different, but I think it makes it louder."

Guitars he made hang on the walls in his living room, at least the ones he keeps. "I hold on the the guitars for about a year, and then I give them away to a group in Connecticut that gives guitars to veterans in Washington, D.C.," Cornelius said.
"I never charge anyone for anything here. people can visit my sculpture garden for free, and I give my guitars away. It's my way of paying it forward."

  • Steel Sculptures Fill Veteran Man's Acres (Star Gazette, 2006)  by Jeff Murray
 
Some people grow tomatoes in their garden, Or flowers. Cornelius Lyon’s garden features steel.

It doesn’t grow there. Instead, Lyon takes scrap steel and conjures up thougth-provking abstract sculptures. Tending to his expanding sculpture garden is more than just a hobby or even a second career for the retired Watkins Glen school teacher. It is more of a quest, a mission Lyon started his sculpture garden in 1984. Twenty-two years latter, nearly 400 creations dot 40 wooded acres surrounding his home on Acker Road in Veteran.

And he’s still going strong, “I work on this seven days a week when the weather is nice. It’s just a lot of fun,” Lyon said. “I love human interest stories that people have never heard about before.’

Lyon’s sculptures are tributes to famous people and maybe some who weren’t so famous but did note worthy things; One sculpture honors the man who isolated the penicillin vaccine. Another pays tribute to the first female journalist killed in overseas war zone. There are many homage’s to war heroes and heroines and a lot of themes and symbols about the excitement-and perils-of the nuclear age.

A recent addition to Lyons’s garden is a memorial to the World Trade Center.

Most of his retirement checks go into buying the scrap metal and high-quality auto body paints he uses to create his sculptures, and Lyon get no monetary compensation in return.

He offers free tours of the sculpture garden to anyone who wants to experience the journey.

Lyon is able to finance his second career thanks to royalties from a natural well that came through on another part of his property. That gives him the freedom to do what he’s always wanted to do-give something back. “I wanted to contribute something to the human spirit. I am lucky. I can make a contribution." Lyon draws much of his inspiration from his four-year tenure in the U.S. Air Force. He calls his experience as a 19 year-old serving in Korea ”the best year of my life.”

He also realized from the experience that he had a lot to learn about life and the world around him, and was determined to educate himself as much as he could. Lyon graduated from Corning Community College in 1964 and Mansfield University in 1968. He started teaching at Watkins Glen Middle School in 1970 and earned his master’s degree from Elmira College in 1971.
Lyon’s interest in abstract sculpture was ignited when he saw abstract art for the first time during a visit to Paris. Since then, he says he’s seen all the major sculpture gardens on five continents.

To learn his craft, he took advanced welding courses from BOCES and recently completed an auto body class at Corning Community College. Lyon, who retired from teaching in 2000, hopes to have more than 500 pieces on display before he’s done, which he says would make his sculpture garden among the largest in the world.

Lyon has three grown children, all of whom served in the U.S. Navy. Lyon hopes he can keep the sculpture garden he’s developed for the last two decades going, but says he’s not ready to put away his welder’s torch yet. “It should remain intact for a long time; its maintenance-free,” Lyon said.

“I have something to do for the rest of my life. This is the greatest retirement job. You are finally CEO of your own destiny.”

  • In View - Profile of the C Lyon  by Cheryl Patterson-Smith
 
"I don't do art for art's sake: Art has to say something," says Cornelius Lyon, Jr. anextraordinary artist and man. Most art in New York City is "just visualization," he adds. You won't find his creations there--yet. The bulk of them are in his own outdoor "gallery" -- a unique sculpture garden, mostly consisting of abstract steel pieces, it's situated off of the Ridge Road near Horseheads.

More than 240 bold, imptressive, often flourescent-bright designs seem right at home beside natural white pines in a sprawling 30-acre forest. And The C Lyon -- as he is known -- has used just about everything imaginable to achieve his art: from cast iron to chains, from farm machinery to wagon wheels. Would you believe -- electric fans?

Although he has a degree in English literature and once planned to become a writer, Lyon lost that drive. But he found something uniquely his own in a true marriage of a man and his art. A man who has traveled to art museums all over the world, he began doing his own sculptures in 1984. He started with "ground-hugging" pieces -- following the lead of an artist he admired who "stuck everything he did on the ground." It took about three years for him to break out of "building something, to be free to create a whole new visual invention."
Differences between the early and more recent works are quite apparent. The newer ones are more graceful, seem to "move" actually, beginning with the base. "I try to say things through motion and space," Lyon says. He uses circles as clocks in an intriguing way, with cryptic messages -- such as the time 8:15 to indicate the moment of nuclear explosions in Hiroshima. Themes like "good over evil also enter into the four-dimensional works: triangles (representing good) on top of missiles", for example. Wisdom triumphs over ignorance. Entrapment is another theme; hence, the use of chains, depicting various guises from financial traps to relationship traps. He puts mini-American flags on his pieces: "I'm very patriotic." He affably refers to some pieces as "divorce art". These depict the period when his ex-wife left him a single parent caring for their three children. The sculputes incorporate phrases or brief statements, like "We suffered."

Strolling through this unusual habitat Lyon literally "carved out" (his house and studio were also hand-built), one may be treated to a rendering of one of his own 500 folk songs. He accompanies on guitar while seated on a stump in a clearing midway through the 45-minute walk; later he offers refreshments, cheese and crackers, and responds to questions from visitors.

"In a museum in New York City, you get your reading -- such as poetry -- and your art, along with the reception. I do the same thing, only it's a one-man operation." But he feels that "I could put my most recent works next to paintings in New York City and not take a back seat to painting anymore."

Experimenting with color has involved sandblasting sculptures, filling them with fiberglass and sanding them down to perfectly smooth surfaces. Then he applies special paints and finishes -- including fluorescent paints that result in bright red, blue, green, pubple and pink. Viewed through the tree , some resemble the spectacular flora of an Amazon jungle.

The C Lyon's personal metamorphosis is as intriguing as his art. The Elmira native -- and first generation of his family to go to college -- quit factory work at age 19 (My foreman said, Believe me, there's a lot more to life than this factory!") and went into the Air Force. Stationed in the Orent, he discovered reading and avidly read every free moment. It seems fitting that he now teaches reading to pupils with Special Educaion needs at Watkins Glen Middle School. He worked at numerous jobs from paper hanger to dishwasher in order to get three degrees, including a masters from Elmira College. After the military service, Lyon decided to "make the most of my existence" and became an ardent believer in "divine puposes" ...He calls himself an "Irish-Catholic Buddhist."

His first book of poetry, "The Ballad of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Other Poems" has been added to libraries around the states -- published under The C Lyon, (one of a handful of pseutonyms many friends call hime "Ross").

Lyon receives about 100 visitors a year -- most coming to his garden in the fall -- on weekends, when he's not teaching or working a part-time job to pay for materials for his art. Meanwhile, he completes about one sculpture a week, season permitting. He comes closest to what he has longed to achieve in sculptures like his homage to John F. Kennedy -- "my only hero". Titled AWAKE, this stunning, vibrantly colorful work has "a lot of Buddha involved...as a message to humanity".

  • 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 ground up.
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."

  • Sculpting Tributes (Corning Leader)  by Derrick Ek
 
Forget about long leisurely days on the golf course. Cornelius Lyon has found other ways to enjoy his retirement, like creating what he believes to be one of the world’s largest sculpture gardens on his forty-acre swath of woods on his property in the hills just north of Horseheads.
           Lyon, a retired Watkins Glen teacher, call himself “The C Lyon.” He began creating abstract sculptures out of scrap metal and other objects back in the early ‘80s as an outlet-not just artistically, but also for his intense interest in history, especially military. The theme of his garden is “Nuclearism,” reflecting his feelings on serving in the Air Force and growing up during the Cold War era under the threat of nuclear annihilation.
           “I found my voice, “ Lyon says. “I hit on my mission in life.”
           He works on his sculpture garden almost every day in the spring, summer and fall. He buys steel from scrap yards. He carves paths through the woods and clears heavy brush a few feet at a time, and hauls the clipping away in his Gator, a six-wheel all-terrain vehicle that sometimes doubles as a tour bus.
           He reads a ton of books and articles on U.S. military history, watches the History Channel religiously and finds some of the most striking, heroic and often tragic stories that haven’t always made their way into the mainstream,
           Then he creates homage’s to the men and women involved.
           One of his sculptures honors Johnnie Johnson, an American soldier in a Korean War prison camp who kept a secret, meticulous list of 496 fellow POWs who died during a two-year ordeal. He jotted down their names and the day they died on scraps of paper, and concealed the list in the walls of the mud hut, all so the families could someday be notified.
           Another sculpture pays homage to Ira Hayes, an Indian-American GI who hoisted the flag at Iwo Jima during World War. But, deeply scarred by the war, he died drunk in a ditch a few years after returning home. Hayes was later immortalized in the Johnny Cash song. “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.”
           Yet another pays tribute to Captain Mc Vay, who was at the helm of the USS Indianapolis, a battleship sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War11. Mc Vay’s men floated for days, slowly being eaten alive by sharks. Out of more than 1,000 men, only 316 survived. Quint, the grizzled shark hunter, tells the story in the classic horror flick” Jaws.”
           There are hundreds of sculptures like them, hidden throughout the woods. The whole tour takes nearly three hours on foot.
           Lyon uses symbols to tie his sculptures together, things like clocks and trinities. He conceals CD payers so visitors hear the eery sounds of ocean waves and flutes washing through the forest. At one point, there is a circle of tree stumps called Poet’s Part, where Lyon likes to recite poetry and strum his guitar for visitors.
           “They have to listen to me for nine minutes,” Lyon said. “That’s the price of admission.”
           They wander through, a few at time, and sign a guest book when they leave. Lyon gives tours by appointment, then after that, he lets people come back and enjoy the garden by themselves.
           Lately, Lyon has branched out into what he calls, ”arborism,” that is, the technique of suspending his sculptures among the trees. He has also been experimenting with a wide variety of primers, paints and protective finishes. Some are used on boats and cars, and cost as much as $45 an ounce. They sparkle and gleam, and Lyon thinks they could last for hundreds of years.
           “When the sunlight hits some of them, they’re so bright that they’re hard to look at, “ he said.
           The goal is 500 sculptures, which he says should take another couple of years. Once he hits 500, “That’s it. I’m done. I’m going to start making my own guitars.”


  • The C Lyon (Seneca Spectator)  Frank Steber
 
Forget about long leisurely days on the golf course. Cornelius Lyon has found other ways to enjoy his retirement, like creating what he believes to be one of the world’s largest sculpture gardens on his forty-acre swath of woods on his property in the hills just north of Horseheads.
           Lyon, a retired Watkins Glen teacher, call himself “The C Lyon.” He began creating abstract sculptures out of scrap metal and other objects back in the early ‘80s as an outlet-not just artistically, but also for his intense interest in history, especially military. The theme of his garden is “Nuclearism,” reflecting his feelings on serving in the Air Force and growing up during the Cold War era under the threat of nuclear annihilation.
           “I found my voice, “ Lyon says. “I hit on my mission in life.”
           He works on his sculpture garden almost every day in the spring, summer and fall. He buys steel from scrap yards. He carves paths through the woods and clears heavy brush a few feet at a time, and hauls the clipping away in his Gator, a six-wheel all-terrain vehicle that sometimes doubles as a tour bus.
           He reads a ton of books and articles on U.S. military history, watches the History Channel religiously and finds some of the most striking, heroic and often tragic stories that haven’t always made their way into the mainstream,
           Then he creates homage’s to the men and women involved.
           One of his sculptures honors Johnnie Johnson, an American soldier in a Korean War prison camp who kept a secret, meticulous list of 496 fellow POWs who died during a two-year ordeal. He jotted down their names and the day they died on scraps of paper, and concealed the list in the walls of the mud hut, all so the families could someday be notified.
           Another sculpture pays homage to Ira Hayes, an Indian-American GI who hoisted the flag at Iwo Jima during World War. But, deeply scarred by the war, he died drunk in a ditch a few years after returning home. Hayes was later immortalized in the Johnny Cash song. “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.”
           Yet another pays tribute to Captain Mc Vay, who was at the helm of the USS Indianapolis, a battleship sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War11. Mc Vay’s men floated for days, slowly being eaten alive by sharks. Out of more than 1,000 men, only 316 survived. Quint, the grizzled shark hunter, tells the story in the classic horror flick” Jaws.”
           There are hundreds of sculptures like them, hidden throughout the woods. The whole tour takes nearly three hours on foot.
           Lyon uses symbols to tie his sculptures together, things like clocks and trinities. He conceals CD payers so visitors hear the eery sounds of ocean waves and flutes washing through the forest. At one point, there is a circle of tree stumps called Poet’s Part, where Lyon likes to recite poetry and strum his guitar for visitors.
           “They have to listen to me for nine minutes,” Lyon said. “That’s the price of admission.”
           They wander through, a few at time, and sign a guest book when they leave. Lyon gives tours by appointment, then after that, he lets people come back and enjoy the garden by themselves.
           Lately, Lyon has branched out into what he calls, ”arborism,” that is, the technique of suspending his sculptures among the trees. He has also been experimenting with a wide variety of primers, paints and protective finishes. Some are used on boats and cars, and cost as much as $45 an ounce. They sparkle and gleam, and Lyon thinks they could last for hundreds of years.
           “When the sunlight hits some of them, they’re so bright that they’re hard to look at, “ he said.
           The goal is 500 sculptures, which he says should take another couple of years. Once he hits 500, “That’s it. I’m done. I’m going to start making my own guitars.”


  • Retired Teacher Creates Steel Art For His Odessa Sculpture Garden
 
Cornelius Lyon, Jr., 63, is a Renaissance man with many talents. A retired teacher of remedial reading at Watkins Glen Middle School for more than 20 years, Lyon is also a writer, musician, craftsman, world traveler, athlete, home-builder, and single father who raised three children, one of which now serves in the US Navy.

Also known by his nickname “Pepsi,” or professionally as “The C. Lyon,” hi is curator of his own outdoor steel sculpture museum. He creates and displays his art along a few miles of mossy paths in the 40 acres surrounding his home on Acker Road, in the Town of Veteran.

Begun in 1984, the sculpture garden is one of 142 in the US. Today some 300 pieces grace the garden trails. Lyon strives to complete one new sculpture a week, and at that rate he estimates he’ll have the largest in the world within two years…although he says he needs “at least six more years” to really leave his mark on the world.

Initially Lyon worked with heavy metal “horizontal” sculptures, now rusted, which still dot the garden’s paths. He describes his early work as “stiff.” As his talent developed, his sculpture became more vertical, stretching up and out 6 or 8 feet tall, filled with fluidity and rhythm. Rather than let the sculpture rust, Lyon now preserves his work with auto body paints and enamels to prevent corrosion “hopefully for at least 100 years.”

His art is full of patriotism and symbolism – many groups of three (trinities), clocks, American flags, religious symbols mixed with military and other historical references. He traces his urge to communicate through art to a pivotal moment in his late teens/early twenties when he served in the US Air Force. That’s when he got “The Flash” – a moment of epiphany.

“I was a 19 year old illiterate kid in the Air Force, stationed in the Orient. I was in a valley with a beautiful Korean rice field when I became flashed. I’d seen such awesome poverty and suffering…I’d also done something stupid when I was young that I was ashamed of, and this is my second chance at life.”

He describes his art as “nuclearism” – seeking to express his perception of life under the doomsday fear of nuclear annihilation, a pre-Vietnam era view he gained by building bomb shelters while in the military. He also seeks to honor those who should not be forgotten.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, he decided to build a home on Acker Road, but didn’t how to do it al himself. Eager to learn, he took a series of evening classes at SCT BOCES in welding, plumbing, electrical/mechanical and carpentry.

“I don’t know what I would have done without BOCES,” he said. “I did all my own framing, electricity, plumbing, even the kitchen cabinets – and it all passed inspection.” After building his home, he blazed trails around it into the surrounding forest. He continued to experiment with welding to create abstract sculpture, and realized that he’d finally “found his voice.”

All the while, he devoured books on history and religion, coming up with “nuclear” topics and people to pay homage to. His gallery includes titles such as “Nuclear Compassion,” “Nuclear Forceps,” “Nuclear Shovel,” and “Homage to JFK,” “Homage to Vietnam Vets,” and Homage to Dr. Jonas Salk.”

New fabricated steel is hard to find, so he puts a lot of miles in his old pickup in search of it. He buys metal and paints at his own expanse. Lyon has never sold a piece and has never been paid for his work.

For a retiree, Lyon is a very busy man. He jogs, reads, writes, builds guitars, takes care of an adopted stray cat, updates his own web site, and, every Sunday, attends worship serve with monks at Mount Savior Monastery.

He’s also in the process of pulling some of his old sculpture from the garden trails, sandblasting the rust off them, then painting them with bright car paint colors that will withstand years of outdoor elements without rusting. “I’m not the kind of person who can just sit on the beach and do nothing, “ he said.

  • In the Garden: A Nuclear Era Timeline by Kelly Quinn
 
I’ve always known him as Pepsi, a childhood nickname. Some people call him Cornelius. His professional name is Ross. One thing you can’t call Cornelius Lyon Jr., though, is a quitter.

Since he began working as a metal sculptor in 1984, Ross has created 300 sculptures on 30 acres of land surrounding his home on Acker Road in the town of Veteran, just east of Millport.

All the sculptures are in an 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 Ross calls home. He gives tours of his garden at 1 p.m. on Saturdays through Sept. 1.

Ross became interested in abstract work after a trip to the Storm King outdoor sculpture garden in Newburgh, N.Y. “I had to visit five continents and spend the last 16 years searching for my voice,” said Ross, a 62 year-old retired teacher in Watkins Glen school district. You’ve heard of impressionism. Ross has created “nuclearism.” He is eager to explain why.

“Every artist wants to have his or her own theme. I spent four years in the Air Force, and my life during the Cold War, “ he said. Ross became interested in art during an annual trip to France. There, he visited a museum and decided that he would someday have a place filled with his own work.

“I’d be spending Saturdays at home with my kids and started doing this, “ Ross said. It kept me at home.”

Ross started by creating horizontal metal sculptures. He quickly became bored with them, although they are part of his garden.
He wanted more.

He took welding courses and even an auto-refinishing course at Corning Community College. “I told the teacher I didn’t care about working on cares and he said he did care why I was there, as long as I wanted to learn.” Ross said.

That course ended up giving Ross’ art the boost it needed. To start, he takes the metal and sandblasts it bare. After some twisting and turning, he comes up with a theme for the piece. In the first few years, the metal would rust and fade after sitting out doors in the sun. It needed something that would fight off the elements. Ross began to experiment with different paints. It’s all part of the process, he said.

Now he uses fluorescent colors, car striping, fiberglass, lettering and polyurethane’s. The key, though, to making long-lasting pieces that Mother Nature can’t damages is a couple of coats of polyurethane, topped with iron, a strong protective paint used for cars and boats.

“See that piece”? Ross asked as he pointed to a work he calls “Uncontaminated.” “That one has been under 4 feet of snow and it still looks new. Nature hasn’t touched it yet.

A walk through Ross’ garden of sculptures is peaceful. A winding, sometimes soft, mossy path surrounded by trees, birds, and other critters, takes visitors on a tour of the work he has done over the years.

There’s “Homage to Sacagawea,” and even “Homage to Aborigines,” which is decorated with “Wombats, next 5 km” stickers from Australia, where Ross recently vacationed. His work is filled with symbolism: clocks, marking 8:15 (The time Hiroshima was bombed) and 10:59 (when Nagasaki was bombed); missiles, and the American flag.

“The pieces are made in America,” Ross said. “And every Sunday I thank God I’m from this country.”

Much of Ross’ work is dedicated to soldiers, particularly those in the Vietnam War. His work-in-progress is an “Homage to Paul Tibbets.” Col. Tibbets dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. “It was the single most destructive thing that has ever happened.” Ross said. He knows that Tibbets wasn’t a very popular man, but that doesn’t stop Ross from moving forward with his design.

“I’m like a fashion designer trying to create something that’s never been done or seen before,” said Ross, who has three grown children, all in the U.S. Navy.

Ross stops at “Poet’s Corner” an intermission area with log stumps as stools positioned in a circle. That’s where visitors stop and Ross plays his guitar and recites poetry.

He talks about his goals as an artist. Despite repeated attempts, Ross has never gotten his work into a New York City are gallery. Only one piece of work has ever left his garden of sculptures. That one “Nuclear Cardinal,” was placed in Fireman’s Park in Elmira Heights at the intersection of College and Oakwood avenues.

With 300 pieces, Ross believes he has the largest sculpture garden by a single artist in the northeastern Untied States. His goal is to complete 157 more sculptures, giving him the largest “garden” in the world.

“I want to spend the rest of my life creating something that’s never been done before.”

 
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