Kenvin Lyman's artwork, "Binding Wheat"
When Kenvin Lyman died unexpectedly in a fall two years ago, Salt Lake lost a kind of hero.
Not the usual kind. In a state with a history based on legend and larger-than-life heroes, Lyman was a hero simply because of the life he chose to live. In an era of technology, he was a humanist; in a time of specialization, he was a generalist, combining his love of art, food, music and the land into his life’s work, which was his life. But like all heroes, along with living memories, he left as his legacy, a book.
The lush and massive coffee-table volume, published by Gibbs Smith in late summer, is titled Kenvin: An Artist’s Kitchen.
The subtitle—Food, Art & Wisdom of a Bohemian Cowboy—clues you in that this is the tale of a rebel. Lyman, with his friends and partners Mikel Covey and Harvey Warnke, in Flash and Edison Visuals, and later with Richard Taylor in Rainbow Jam, designed light shows and toured with the Grateful Dead and other seminal ‘60s bands. As a singer/songwriter, Lyman was known as “The Utah Kid.” He was part of the counterculture, which never gained a very strong following in the Beehive. He was one of the first to see computer graphics as an art form and organized the International Computer Graphics Archive.
Kenvin Lyman credits his mother, Elizabeth, with the inspiration for the book.
But he remained rooted in the pioneer culture of his Mormon forebears. No matter how conservative Utah seems now, the state’s history is radical because pioneers are by definition radical. In his book, 12 years in the making, Lyman connects his pioneer roots to his unconventional life. Inspired by a request from his beloved mother, he documented this story with art and recipes.
“From the start, his vision for the book was steadfast,” says Sofia Angkasa, Lyman’s wife. She was in town recently to sell the last of Kenvin’s things. His house in the Avenues was sold, and all that was left was detritus—an old meat grinder, a few chairs, stacks of books and the storyboards for his book: snapshots of paintings and notes. “He believed you should be true to who you are,” she says, and that’s what his book reflects.
An Artist's Kitchen was published this summer and is available at local bookshop King's English.
Born on a ranch in Spring Lake, near Payson, Lyman recorded intense childhood recollections of butter making, horseback riding and hunting. Choosing for chapter titles oblique references to Utah experiences—entree recipes are gathered under the name, “The Venison Hunt” and breakfast recipes accompany his memoir of “Strawberry Ranch.” Later in life, he returned to the land as a farmer. “He wanted to know if you could make a living as a small farmer today,” says Angkasa. “His mother gave him the land, he had some equipment and we farmed a few acres.” Although the couple sold their produce to some of Utah’s best restaurants—Sundance Resort, Log Haven, The Paris—and Lyman hybridized his own tomato (called the Bohemian), in the end, Angkasa says, “He decided the answer was no.”
But he also said, “My garden is my secret weapon to surviving as an artist.” These two passions are the heart of this book, one inspiring the other. But tying them together further is the particular sense of place—Utah, with all its beauty and oddity.
The book he created is Lyman’s last love song to Utah.
"Greenriver Melon Stand" Where's Lyman's work? Tom Guinney, founder of Gastronomy Restaurants, Inc., was a huge supporter of Lyman's art. He commissioned a wall installation of his restaurant, Baci (covered when the restaurant was sold) and held shows of Lyman's work at his restaurants.