Mollie Michala Lyman, model and artist, 1926–2013
As a girl, Mollie Michala
Lyman (BFA 1948, MFA 1966), created paper dolls with custom wardrobes, illustrated her own
daily newspaper and drew with crayons on an iron radiator because she
liked the way the colors melted in the heat.
"Even as a child she
was unconventional," said her daughter, Francesca Lyman. "She saw life
as being chapters filled with new challenges"
Mrs. Lyman went on
to work as a model before becoming an artist and art teacher. Influenced
by everything from the works of Picasso to the dada movement, she
worked in oils, pastels and fabric and employed materials including
bubble gum and dryer lint.
Mrs. Lyman, 87, died of
natural causes Saturday, April 13, at Bethesda Home, a North Side
retirement facility, her daughter said.
Born and raised on
Chicago's South Side, she was an artist and art professor at Emory
University in Atlanta and lived for many years in New York before
returning to the Chicago area in 2007.
According to her daughter,
some of Mrs. Lyman's favorite pieces were from the pop art period of the
1960s and '70s that included social commentary, including two pieces
addressing the excessive force used by the police and National Guard
against anti-war protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention
"I remember her art work as being very much a part of
the times of the '60s and '70s," said longtime friend Annette
Cone-Skelton, co-founder and president of the Museum of Contemporary Art
of Georgia in Atlanta. "She did not back away from political commentary
and used materials with authority as she addressed the social changes,
especially the women's movement."
Born Mollie Michala in Chicago,
the eldest of two children growing up in a second-generation Eastern
European immigrant family, Mrs. Lyman worked as a clothed model for art
and fashion-design classes to help pay for her education.
studied fine arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and in
1948 won the Art Institute's Ryerson Fellowship to study painting in
Paris. There, she met her future husband, a fellow South Sider named Tom
Lyman, who was doing graduate studies in philosophy and aesthetics at
While she pursued her interest in painting, he fell
in love with Romanesque art, and ultimately became a professor of art
history. The two hitchhiked across Europe, camped out in places like the
Forum in Rome, and were married in Florence, Italy's Palazzo Vecchio.
1952, the couple returned to Chicago, settling in Hyde Park, where Mr.
Lyman was accepted into a doctoral program at the University of Chicago
to study art history. He got a job as an artist working on maps for Rand
McNally. The two also became fashion models.
Victor Skrebneski recalled meeting the couple at a party. "To me as a
photographer, they looked wonderful," Skrebneski said in a 1992 Tribune
The couple enjoyed a successful career in modeling,
appearing in print and television ads across the city and country and
doing work for department stores such as Marshall Field's and Carson
Mrs. Lyman remained an artist and received a master's
degree in fine arts from SAIC in 1966. The family moved to Atlanta when
her husband got a job there, and Mrs. Lyman began teaching at the
Atlanta School of Art in the 1960s and became one of the founders of
Emory University's studio art program in the Art History Department,
where she taught for 22 years.
"Her inventive drawing and painting
classes had students creating works in adventurous ways, such as making
full-scale naked body prints on large pieces of paper, which were then
displayed in the impromptu gallery in the old barracks building the art
department then occupied," said Emory art history professor emeritus
Clark Poling, who taught with Mrs. Lyman for many years.
"With glamorous pizazz, she contributed to the high spirits, inquisitive and fun, that marked the department in those days."
Mrs. Lyman also continued to produce her own art.
art works included sheets of handmade paper left outdoors to weather,
with food items like bread on them, as well as feminist performances
that were presented to the Atlanta public," Poling said.
Following the death of her husband in 1992, Mrs. Lyman moved to New York, where she lived until returning to Chicago in 2006.
was her spirit of adventure that captured me — her battle cry was 'why
not,'" said longtime friend and Atlanta artist and curator Julia
Fenton. "And it was that 'why not' that beautifully infected not only
my art, but also my life."
Other survivors include a son, Michael;
three other daughters, Mela Lyman, Stephany Lyman and Sophia Lyman Van
Der Meer; a brother, Jack Michala; and seven grandchildren.
Services are pending.
For more information read the official article at the Chicago Tribune's website.
Read Mollie Lyman's biography here.