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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Highlands Festival Names 2009 Signature Artist

Val Lyle's
Val Lyle's "Entwined Dancers," in the "Female(s) Form(s)" exhibition at William King Regional Arts Center, will become the property of the Virginia Highlands Festival.
Additional photos below »

December 28, 2008

The Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon has chosen Val Lyle of Bristol, Tenn. as its 2009 signature artist.

The Festival selected Lyle after seeing her award-winning sculpture "Feminine Entwinement," currently on display in Bristol, and a newer piece, "Entwined Dancers," at William King Regional Arts Center in Abingdon.

"Feminine Entwinement" is constructed of tugboat rope, "Entwined Dancers" of aircraft carrier rope made of Kevlar. The two sculptures are heavily coated with resin. Both are whimsical and lyrical, "dancing between abstraction and representation."

Lyle says, "The rope as a metaphor entered my sculptural vocabulary around 1987, a metaphor for what ties people down and for what binds people together. Meditations on the simple baling twine used for square hay bales I helped put up in my grandparents' barn led to reflections of time and heritage as a series of twisted and woven events....The textures of hand-hewn wooden barns, tobacco leaves, bailing twine, and trees grown around barbed wire fences have influenced my visual vocabulary. My roots are grounded in farming families that kept everything, bought little, and made repairs when possible to survive the Depression."

She continues, "I look for ways to make contemporary sculpture more approachable — using common materials in an uncommon way and a figurative reference help to accomplish that. I believe one of the primary purposes of art is to help us consider ourselves as well as the world around us in a fresh way."

Lyle is no stranger to the Highlands Festival. Previous participation includes the following activities:
She helped coordinate a youth sculpture project on the grounds of William King Regional Arts Center.
As a Festival-goer for many years, Lyle has entered the Juried Fine Art Show and attended several Creative Writing programs, concerts and theatrical productions.

Last year, Lyle was invited to demonstrate clay portrait sculpture for the Festival's Media Day and during the two-week Festival on behalf of the classes she teaches for William King Regional Arts Center. Lyle set up wet clay "starter" heads for hands-on participation by children and adults.

Public Art
"Feminine Entwinement" won the People's Choice Award in Arts Alliance Mountain Empire's third annual Art in Public Places outdoor sculpture competition in Bristol. Lyle's sculpture is near the Birthplace of Country Music mural at the Downtown Center.

Lyle and her sculpture students created a series of wall-hung public artworks for display at Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children) in Knoxville has commissioned Lyle to create "Light of Hope," a life-size bronze of two children.

Lyle says, "I have successfully worked with three different cities and eight different major organizations creating proposals, models, time lines and budgets so that I could help them realize their public art project."

About the Artist
In addition to contemporary sculpture, Lyle creates portrait sculpture. She also teaches one-day and six-week classes several times a year and occasionally does public demonstrations in portrait sculpture. She is currently working both in clay and bronze for finished portraiture. While working from life is her preferred method, she can work from photographs or digital movies.

Born in Johnson City, Tenn., Lyle grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., longing to find out what was going on "out in the real world." She spent much of her adult life in Hawaii, Arizona, Florida and New York City, where she credits much of her artistic development. When given the opportunity to return to East Tennessee, Lyle took it. She says, "I'm one of the lucky ones. I've been able to go see some of the world, which helped me to develop a deeper appreciation for our unique area, and I have been lucky enough to return to enjoy living in it."

She earned her BFA in sculpture at the Ringling School of Art and Design and her MFA while maintaining the family home place in Bristol, Tenn. She continues to teach art courses and workshops, and is a full-time studio artist. For more information, visit or

for Val Lyle's exhibition schedule.

Lyle demonstrates clay portrait sculpture during last year's Virginia Highlands Festival.

Lyle's paintings of weathered barns will be part of "Sages and Sanctuaries" at Mountain Empire Community College, Big Stone Gap, Va.