ROBOTS ON THE HORIZON: Interview with artist John Lytle Wilson | Visual arts | Savannah News, Events, Restaurants, Music

John Lytle Wilson is a Birmingham, Alabama-based artist known for his colorful murals and paintings. Drawing inspiration from 80s cartoons and movies, Wilson paints robots, animals, and scenarios into existing artwork for his series of Corrected Paintings.

Some of Wilson’s work has been featured in New American Paintings, and his murals can be found on several notable buildings, such as the Birmingham Museum of Art, the University of Alabama-Birmingham Specialty Care Clinic, and the Center for data from Facebook in Huntsville, Alabama.

In July, Wilson’s exhibition “SPLASH!” will be available to view the Grande Bohemian Gallery in the Plant Riverside District until the end of the month.

Was art something you always wanted to pursue?

Instead. My parents growing up were very supportive, and around the end of elementary or middle school, I was definitely considering doing something with art. My mother was an elementary school teacher and my father was a professor of political science at Winthrop Univ. They were kind of encouraging me to think about teaching art and I did that first. That’s kind of what I did initially. Turns out I wasn’t really expecting people to find my work. I thought teaching should be part of my career and I loved teaching, but it got to the point where I struggled to do both.

So, you’ve been doing art full-time for four years?

Before that, I taught at Birmingham Southern College here in Birmingham, which is my alma mater. I was there for five years and it got to the point where I realized I could do art full time, I was probably a better artist than I was a teacher. So I kind of took the leap and it was rewarding.

Is there a particular reason why you use robots and animals as main subjects?

I have a master’s degree from Florida State, and when you’re working on your master’s degree, they have you whip up this elaborate artist statement that’s the basis of your thesis. I was really interested in animal imagery, animal symbolism, its use, and different religions and cultural traditions, so I was kind of playing with those ideas. At the same time, I really wanted to have fun and paint robots! As soon as I finished graduate school, the first thing I did was paint a giant robot on fire. Over time, it became a duality. The animals, especially the monkeys that I paint, somehow symbolize the Id and the robots maybe the superego. At the same time, they could be bookends of evolution, of intelligent life. It’s also a chance for me to play with the kind of imagery I fell in love with as a kid in the 1980s.

What kind of images from the 80s?

Transformers, Gummy Bears, My Little Pony are all things we were bombarded with on TV in those days. I don’t specifically use these characters in my work, but they are definitely the ingredients. I was also obsessed with Star Wars, but that’s less of an ingredient in what I did. I think when I was painting robots, I wanted to paint transformers. My style is influenced by early cheesy sci-fi movies. It’s also a bit influenced by modernism and reductive and simplified images and shapes.

Are there any ideas or issues that you try to convey through your work?

My art has become more and more about corrected painting, the kinds of pieces where I put robots and animals into existing landscapes. It became a conversation between my work and the previous piece. The original idea was to bring in these robots and destroy these corny sentimental landscapes. If I get my hands on a really good painting, I love adding more because then it becomes more of an interaction between what the artist has put together and what I can maybe bring to it.

Your exhibition “SPLASH!” arrives at Plant Riverside next month. Is the theme of the exhibition aquatic?

It definitely is. This is what we wanted to do since Savannah is a coastal city. I got really into doing things with water. Shortly after the coronavirus shut everything down, I received a commission to do a giant painting of dolphins splashing in the waves, and I had the best time painting the splashes. My work references many 80s themes, so I thought of the movie “Splash” and chose it for the title of the exhibition.

For more information about Wilson and his work, visit

Briana R. Cross