Many Thanks, Linda Lyke

Photo by Kevin Burke

“Occidental will forever be an indelible part of me," says the professor of art and art history, who is retiring after 46 years at the College

What attracted you to Oxy? "With encouragement from friends, I applied to schools on the West Coast, as my prints resonated with the art, culture, and landscapes of California. At that time, Los Angeles rivaled New York as a thriving scene for artists and I was excited to find that Oxy was hiring a printmaking professor. I distinctly remember my first visit to campus and the lovely Myron Hunt architecture, which was aglow with the rosy hues of a Maxfield Parrish sun setting to the west. One of my interviews was conducted by current art students and I was immediately impressed by them. They were curious and committed to using their art to engage with and comment on contemporary issues. It was also clear from my initial visit that Oxy faculty, students, and staff formed a real community, and that the former Art Barn was an intellectual meeting place on campus."

You mentioned that your favorite class was Photo-Processes in Printmaking. Why? “Many of our students come to college with an interest in photography but no knowledge or experience of printmaking. It has been exciting to teach Photo-processes in Printmaking and introduce students to the joys of printmaking using their photographs with the new techniques such as photo platemaking, solar plates, litho plates, photo silkscreen and digital media. I have enjoyed the printshop as a place where students can come and learn new technologies along with traditional print-making processes, and be encouraged to experiment with their work and dream big. That, in turn, continues to resonate with me.”

You have curated a lot of exhibitions for the College. Can you pick a favorite? "There are so many favorites, but a few stand out as significant, one was during Barack Obama’s time at Oxy and the political unrest on campus about oppression in South Africa. My printmaking students and I made divestment posters in 1981 that were hung in the Art Barn Gallery to convince the college to divest funds from the apartheid regime. Another exhibit I curated revisits early Oxy poetry and printers, Jeffers Country, celebrating the centennial of [1905 graduate] Robinson Jeffers’ birth in 1887. The show featured a selection of notable landscapes and seascape prints from 1915 to 1935, which depicted the Monterey Peninsula near Jeffers’ residence, Tor House and Hawk Tower.

"Most recently, I curated an exhibition titled Rethinking the Multiple: Matrix Alternation, Installation, and Artist Books, which brought four nationally known printmakers to Occidental to discuss their work with our students. Over the years, these exhibitions have been an important way for students to see art on campus and engage directly with renowned Los Angeles and national artists."

What are your plans for retirement? “My work has always been inspired by the close observation of nature and Oxy has been very generous in supporting my travels to examine plants and animals in places such as Yosemite National Park, Japan, Belfast, Melbourne, and most recently, Kenya. I will continue to travel and to create artwork that celebrates and ruminates on the natural world. I believe art is a regeneration loop—it both sustains me as a human and is vital to raising awareness and energy in the fight to save the biodiversity of the planet in the face of the climate crisis.”

Anything else you would like to add? “Occidental will forever be an indelible part of me. I raised my two daughters as a young mother on this campus. I’ve had the privilege of teaching an amazing, talented group of students, many of whom are now lifelong friends and incredible artists whose achievements fill me with pride. I’m immensely grateful for the camaraderie of my colleagues from administration, athletics, faculty, and staff, who make Oxy the wonderful place that it is. Seeing all the friendly faces who work for Campus Dining, Facilities, and Campus Safety always makes my day. Over my tenure, I have enjoyed being a faculty athletic representative. I strongly believe that the mission of a liberal arts college should include fostering student-athletes and encouraging all students to further their mind/body connection through arts and athletics. I have cherished my time at Oxy and I hope to see the collaborations I’ve helped foster between printmaking, book arts, biology, and poetry continue past my retirement. Lastly, I am incredibly grateful for the commissions the College has given me. From the ceramic tiles on the side wall of the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center celebrating the early history of Occidental to my piece LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor) at the culmination of the Fibonacci curve in Sycamore Glen, I feel like I am leaving behind a little part of me.”

Linda Warren ’81: As a freshman entering Occidental College, I had no way of knowing my choice to take Printmaking Fundamentals with Linda Lyke that first quarter would determine the direction of my career and passions. During my years at Oxy, many of the studio art classes were located in the Art Barn (now Samuelson Pavilion). The Art Barn was spectacular—a rambling wood atelier that smelled of sawdust, oil, ink, and the various machinery George Baker ’58 used to teach and create his magnificent sculptures. It was conveniently located between Clancy’s Dining Hall and Erdman, my freshman dorm. I passed many hours in the print studio—my respite as I adjusted to life at Oxy and in Los Angeles.

Lyke in 1976 with student Nichol du Post '77.
Linda, also new to Oxy, was typically in the studio working with us one-on-one while guiding us in the importance of color and texture, along with the nuances of lithography and printmaking. By my junior year, Linda added a Papermaking class to her schedule and the department acquired a new press. Printing monographs on my own paper ignited a spark that led to my lifelong relation-ship with paper, ink, color, process and design. From Linda, I learned that art is frequently not immediate, mistakes are often gifts and the fun is in the exploration. Most important, she taught me to cast a critical eye, go back and dig deeper. 

A few years after graduation, I opened my graphic design studio in Los Angeles, a bold decision for an English lit major. My appreciation of paper, color, and imagery has never wavered and is still the common theme in my work. I am endlessly grateful to Linda for her hands-on approach, her ability to pass on knowledge with her passion and her inspiration to create a career that stirs my soul. 

Enjoy your next adventure, Linda. I look forward to our continued friendship and the opportunity to make art together again.

Warren is founder and creative director of Warren Group | Studio Deluxe in Los Angeles.

Kenturah Davis ’02: I first encountered Linda Lyke during one of my high school volleyball tournaments, where one of her daughters also played. She struck up a conversation with my mom and inquired about my plans for college. Mom told her that I wanted to be an artist and that Oxy was one of the schools I was considering for undergrad. It was impossible to pre-dict how that first encounter would blossom into a lasting mentorship and friendship. 

Professor Lyke showed me what true commitment and discipline for a lifelong practice as an artist looks like. I took every class she taught, and I marvel at the degree to which she nurtured my creativity. Although I knew I wanted to be an artist, she saw more than I could see in myself. Her teaching and guidance has ex-tended far beyond those four years, having written countless letters of recommendation that helped build the artist career I currently enjoy.

In 2018, after I completed my MFA at Yale, she transferred her teaching hat to me, as she began to phase into retirement. Her invitation to come teach studio art courses here at Oxy has really illuminated the significance of the work she has done over the last four decades, both as a teacher and an artist. Her vibrant and compelling work combined with her ability to bring her students’ potential to the surface is what I hope to emulate.

Linda, as you read this, I hope you feel the profound gratitude I have for you. From your support in the classroom, to the house-sitting gigs at your animal kingdom, to help-ing me get my very first show, you have played a strong hand in helping me become the artist and person I want to be. Thank you.

Davis is an artist working between Los Angeles and Accra, Ghana.