Mollie Michala Lyman, 87: Former Emory art teacher

Mollie Lyman’s teaching methods were almost as memorable as she was. An art teacher for more than 30 years in Atlanta, Lyman wanted people to experience art in many different ways.

“Her teaching was very adventurous,” said Clark Poling, art history professor emeritus at Emory University. “She used interesting materials. One of the things that stand out most to me was the body prints she had her students do.”

Inspired in part by a contemporary French artist, Lyman had students return to their living quarters, disrobe, put ink on their bodies and press themselves against a large piece of paper. They brought those imprints back to class, and she would show them other things that could be done with the piece, he said.

“That is just one example of the adventurous methods she used,” Poling said.

Julia Fenton, a friend of more than 30 years, said Lyman was “a true force of nature.”

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“She had a very dynamic personality, she had an elegant and striking way of dressing and she was the kind of person, when she entered a room, you knew it,” Fenton said.

When Lyman retired from teaching, she decided to move to New York and enjoy the art scene, said her daughter Francesca Lyman of Kirkland, Wash.

“She had a dream, when she graduated from college,” Lyman said of her mother’s relocation. “It is the center of the art world, and she really wanted to be part of the international art scene.”

Mollie Michala Lyman stayed in New York until 2007, when she moved to Chicago to live near one of her daughters. She died April 13 after a period of declining health. She was 87.

A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at First Existentialist Congregation, Atlanta. The body was cremated by Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, Oak Park, Ill.

A native of Chicago, Lyman came to Atlanta in 1967 when her husband, Thomas W. Lyman, took a job as an art history professor at Emory. The Lymans were married for more than 40 years at the time of Tom Lyman’s death in 1992. One of the couple’s daughters, Marea Lyman Thomas, died in 2012.

Using her master of fine arts degree, Mollie Lyman taught at Emory’s art department and the Atlanta College of Art. A mother of six, Lyman did not conform to what society may have expected of her. She worked as a model, but did not feel her career options were limited to displaying her physical beauty, her daughter said.

“She felt that fine arts, teaching people to understand the importance of the arts, the importance of personal expression and the importance of understanding the role of art in life were the important things,” Lyman said of her mother. “The importance of artists, painters, sculptors, ceramicists and print makers, and those people who devote their lives to reaching deep into their heart to understand what is really important in life … that was what was important to her.”

In addition to her daughter, Lyman is survived by three additional daughters, Mela Lyman of Cambridge, Mass., Stephany Lyman of New Orleans, and Sophia Lyman of Oak Park, Ill; a son, Michael N. Lyman of Atlanta; and seven grandchildren.

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