Molly Lyon freely admits that one reason she gives money to art projects is that it allows her the opportunity to meet artists whose work she likes. "I just love it because I'm an art groupie," she says candidly. "Artists are special people, and I'm so glad they're in my life, in one way or another."
Not that she has liked every artist she has met over the years. When she met painter Frank Stella, he turned out to be "the rudest, almost offensive person."
Newport Harbor Art Museum trustee Jack Shea gave a party in connection with Newport Harbor's Stella show. "There were all these people," Lyon recalls, "and I didn't see the guest of honor. It was getting to be time to go over to the museum and Leon (her husband) said, 'We've got to go.' I said, 'Well, Stella hasn't arrived yet, honey. I really want to meet him.'
"So pretty soon, I see this person kind of slink in. I thought, that must be him." But the artist looked so uncomfortable that she decided to leave him alone--for the moment. Later at the museum, though, she "took Jack aside and said, 'Before we leave, I want you to introduce me.' We had our son Kurt and his wife with us. We were standing in front of this humungous (Stella) piece that covered the whole wall. It was really an amazing piece.
"So Jack brought Frank Stella over . . . and he said, 'Hrmphh.' And then my son asked him a very intelligent question about the piece, and in the middle of the question (Stella) turned and walked away. . . .
"I said to Leon--we don't own a Stella--'I don't ever want one of his works.' Anyone who is rude to one of my children, they really get (my guts) churning!"