One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It’s a saying most people have probably heard at least a few times in their lives. Lyle Nichols, however, lives by that saying.
“If you can find something that is ornate or unusual, even if it’s broken, and make it into something that people can see something else out of—it makes your day,” Nichols said.
Lyle Nichols has been an artist for nearly 40 years, many of those years he’s spent in Palisade on the Western Slope of Colorado. Most of his creations are made from things people are throwing away or selling in garage sales.
“I don’t pay much for stuff,” Nichols said.
But people are paying for Nichols’ work. He’s sold art to celebrities such as Cher, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kurt Russell.
“I’ve done odds and ends for different folks,” Nichols said. “Some don’t want me to mention their names. Some don’t mind.”
A lot of his work has stayed right on the Western Slope. Many of his works can be seen in the Palisade area. Some, right in his neighbor’s yards.
“It turned out better than I ever expected,” said Priscilla Walker, who has a sculpture of a horse made by Nichols. “He’s made Palisade and the valley a more artistic place to live.”
The horse is made of old farm junk that Nichols had, and that they found around Walker’s home, which used to be a working farm. Old wrenches, baling wire, rusty hinges, horseshoes—just some of the items that make up the horse. Walker has mentioned the fact that she owns a Nichols sculpture to art dealers on her travels.
“I’ve been in art studios in Salt Lake City, and they know exactly who Lyle is,” Walker said. “When I told them I have a Lyle Nichols sculpture, they’re in awe. I think he’s very well known.”
Nichols said he considers his artistic career a gift to him. His wife, who he was married to for 30 years, supported his craft. She worked in hospital administration, while he spent time creating.
“She knew I wasn’t just sitting on the couch eating Twinkies all day long,” Nichols said. His wife died from cancer 13 years ago.
“When she passed away, I sold my first work for $60,000,” Nichols said. “You wish she was alive today to say, ‘Look, I did it!’” Nichols said.
Nichols fans and neighbors are happy he’s still using his imagination.
“He’s been able to pursue this as his adult career, and it’s a wonderful gift to us,” Walker said.
Nichols is somewhat retired these days, but is still actively working on his art. His yard is filled with creations—and though he doesn’t give tours every day, he’s willing to show people around if they can track him down.
Scenes from Palisade and Colorado National Monument