KARYN LYONS

October 11 – 22 2022

For many sensitive, thoughtful souls, adolescence marks not the communal japes and angst that movies love to show but a time of loneliness, self-catechism and pain. And yet the cure for loneliness always seems to be more solitude—or at the very most, the company of a cat.  
 
But if this is the time we first break the shell of puberty and awkwardly unfold, adolescence is also the time when we encounter this strange being: our self. And as alone and awkward as the self may feel, it also feels alive and eagerly curious to find out what that means. This is when we start to read books that aren’t homework. To sneak cigarettes on a disused old balcony hanging from a gable. To look up things in the encyclopedia just because you have to know. To listen to David Bowie albums and finally understand what they mean. Maybe. 
 
This realm belongs to teenagers everywhere—but it arguably belongs to teenage girls more. And as universal as it might be, it is also quite unique in the bewitching work of the New York painter Karyn Lyons, whose intimate canvases create a beautiful kind of site map of the vortex of settings and feelings that swirl around us when we are half-children, half-adult.

The inner tumult might be hard to grasp at first given the seeming placid nature of Lyons’ heroine, whose shoulder-length brunette hairs perfectly mirror her impassive poker face.  But all is not calm. All is not bright.
 
The protagonist of these works is not literally Lyons’ memories of herself, but of the fantasies she had of herself escaping her own teenage years when she was growing up in Connecticut.  And along with the records that Lyons loved and played until the grooves were bare, these flights of imagination helped abate that adolescent pain. And it is striking that, in now reviving the world she once created as an antidote to loneliness, she has now recreated a world which feels very lonely itself. Aside from a couple of romantic entanglements, this nameless girl is always alone, perusing a coffee table book (and imbibing a Tab), lounging in a chair, reading with a cat. 

Though no dates are given, there are clues here and there. That copy of Jaws, for one, was a fixture of the 1970s. And yes, Lyons does have some of the nostalgia many people hold for the days before electronic devices did away with telephones, cameras, books, clocks, stereos, etc. 
 
But what is most potent about Lyons’ paintings lies in the complicated, elegant and bittersweet message that summons up her own memories of feeling like an outsider and to a certain extent wanting the detachment of being an outsider. Lyons felt those conflicting emotions intensely, as the paintings confirm, reminding us that, in many ways, everyone feels like an outsider, and everyone can feel the same pain of that looking at her work. 
 
All of us have our noses pressed up against the window, wanting in without realizing that ‘in’ is just another ‘out.’ Nostalgia is no different; we peer into the windows of the past, exploring our youths so we can set it to rights. And what Lyons’ work demonstrates so well is that, since we never stop wanting to get in or go back no matter how we fail, the best we can do is what Lyons has done—celebrate our follies and make it beautiful and real as possible. 

David Colman


Karyn Lyons was born in Connecticut in 1966. She received a B.A. in Journalism from the American University in Washington, D.C. and attended The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

Lyons’ recent solo and group exhibitions include "Under the Spell" at TURN Gallery in New York, New York (2021); "Nostalgia" at TURN Gallery in New York, New York (2021); "Summer Sun" at The Journal Gallery at Van de Weghe in East Hampton, New York (2021); "Towards a More Beautiful Oblivion" at Fredericks & Freiser in New York, New York (2021); "Mother and Child" at Friends Indeed Gallery in San Francisco, California (2021); and "Frozen Time" at Galleria Annarumma in Naples, Italy.

Karyn Lyons lives and works in New York, New York.

For many sensitive, thoughtful souls, adolescence marks not the communal japes and angst that movies love to show but a time of loneliness, self-catechism and pain. And yet the cure for loneliness always seems to be more solitude—or at the very most, the company of a cat.  
 
But if this is the time we first break the shell of puberty and awkwardly unfold, adolescence is also the time when we encounter this strange being: our self. And as alone and awkward as the self may feel, it also feels alive and eagerly curious to find out what that means. This is when we start to read books that aren’t homework. To sneak cigarettes on a disused old balcony hanging from a gable. To look up things in the encyclopedia just because you have to know. To listen to David Bowie albums and finally understand what they mean. Maybe. 
 
This realm belongs to teenagers everywhere—but it arguably belongs to teenage girls more. And as universal as it might be, it is also quite unique in the bewitching work of the New York painter Karyn Lyons, whose intimate canvases create a beautiful kind of site map of the vortex of settings and feelings that swirl around us when we are half-children, half-adult.

The inner tumult might be hard to grasp at first given the seeming placid nature of Lyons’ heroine, whose shoulder-length brunette hairs perfectly mirror her impassive poker face.  But all is not calm. All is not bright.
 
The protagonist of these works is not literally Lyons’ memories of herself, but of the fantasies she had of herself escaping her own teenage years when she was growing up in Connecticut.  And along with the records that Lyons loved and played until the grooves were bare, these flights of imagination helped abate that adolescent pain. And it is striking that, in now reviving the world she once created as an antidote to loneliness, she has now recreated a world which feels very lonely itself. Aside from a couple of romantic entanglements, this nameless girl is always alone, perusing a coffee table book (and imbibing a Tab), lounging in a chair, reading with a cat. 

Though no dates are given, there are clues here and there. That copy of Jaws, for one, was a fixture of the 1970s. And yes, Lyons does have some of the nostalgia many people hold for the days before electronic devices did away with telephones, cameras, books, clocks, stereos, etc. 
 
But what is most potent about Lyons’ paintings lies in the complicated, elegant and bittersweet message that summons up her own memories of feeling like an outsider and to a certain extent wanting the detachment of being an outsider. Lyons felt those conflicting emotions intensely, as the paintings confirm, reminding us that, in many ways, everyone feels like an outsider, and everyone can feel the same pain of that looking at her work. 
 
All of us have our noses pressed up against the window, wanting in without realizing that ‘in’ is just another ‘out.’ Nostalgia is no different; we peer into the windows of the past, exploring our youths so we can set it to rights. And what Lyons’ work demonstrates so well is that, since we never stop wanting to get in or go back no matter how we fail, the best we can do is what Lyons has done—celebrate our follies and make it beautiful and real as possible. 

David Colman


Karyn Lyons was born in Connecticut in 1966. She received a B.A. in Journalism from the American University in Washington, D.C. and attended The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

Lyons’ recent solo and group exhibitions include "Under the Spell" at TURN Gallery in New York, New York (2021); "Nostalgia" at TURN Gallery in New York, New York (2021); "Summer Sun" at The Journal Gallery at Van de Weghe in East Hampton, New York (2021); "Towards a More Beautiful Oblivion" at Fredericks & Freiser in New York, New York (2021); "Mother and Child" at Friends Indeed Gallery in San Francisco, California (2021); and "Frozen Time" at Galleria Annarumma in Naples, Italy.

Karyn Lyons lives and works in New York, New York.