“I hope that my work has a sense of affirmation in it, that through human societies we may finally learn to make use of our intelligence, not just our ingenuity.”
On New Year’s Day, Minnesota lost an artist who worked tirelessly throughout her 60-year career to raise the profile of Minnesota art. Phyllis Wiener was not only a painter and “object maker” whose work continuously pushed the boundaries of art, but also an activist in her roles as co-founder of the WARM collective and opinionated art writer. Mary Abbe, visual arts and architecture reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, wrote a moving obituary of the artist. In it she states, “A painter and pioneering feminist, Phyllis Wiener was an outspoken role model for a generation that came of age in the 1970s when women were still struggling for professional acceptance in a male-dominated art world.” You can read the full article here.
In this edition of Art Axis, MMAA would like to take a moment to celebrate our connection to this amazing Minnesota artist. Wiener studied with Cameron Booth at the University of Minnesota in the 1950s, where he taught after a long tenure as instructor and director of the St. Paul School of Art (now the Minnesota Museum of American Art). “Cameron Booth taught me about painting. I had many painting instructors, but Cam Booth knew, and taught me, Abstract Expressionist ideas. And I still love those ideas. It was the way I came into painting.” It is not surprising, then, that Wiener came to have a Booth painting in her personal collection, and it was among three works that she donated in 2005 to MMAA, all of which considerably added to the museum’s holdings of important Minnesota artists. Two of the MMAA's paintings by Cameron Booth will appear in the exhibition Our Treasures: Highlights from the Minnesota Museum of American Art at the Weisman Art Museum on February 2. For more on this exhibition, click here.
Wiener’s generosity to the museum extended into 2007, when she gifted her gorgeous painting Colors of the Coast (1972), one of the paintings featured in the current MMAA Project Space exhibition, Painting the Place Between. Per standard practice, Curator of Engagement Christina Chang wrote to the artist, letting her know that the painting was part of the exhibition. In a note dated November 7, 2012, Wiener expressed regret that she was unable to attend the exhibition opening on December 1 since she was “very inactive.” However, gracious as ever, she thanked the museum for the good news and was “honored to have it featured.” The honor is all ours, Phyllis.
Art Axis Editions
Image: Phyllis E. Wiener (1921-2013), Colors from the Coast, 1972, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches. Gift of Phyllis E. Wiener.
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American Art Forum