Phyllis Wichner, May 2006 Copyright © 2006 Mignon Naegeli
Ralph Kniseley & Susan Van Wyk: Family Ties
Phyllis Wichner: A Life’s Work
Oak Ridge Art Center, through June 20, 2015
An interesting show of a local artist, his daughter, and an unforgettable retrospective of a New Yorker who spent her life in a place stomped out of the ground by our government to develop the ultimate weapons of mass destruction, ostensibly to ‘secure’ humanity’s freedom and World peace.
Now it is lovingly called “the Secret City” by those whose noble intention it is to put the dreary atom bomb place on the map. There are secret trails, a secret festival, and an 82 year old nun thrown in jail for trying to manifest her freedom of expression and affirm the pacifist views of many by risking her life in exposing the pitiful security at a “secret” nuclear installation.
Thankfully, the art community kept its integrity. Nothing “secret” about art center, museums, music association, or playhouse.
My Female and the Wolfman visited the exhibition earlier this week. Seeing her colleague’s work, brought back nostalgic memories to the Female. She was part of an all-women art group whose driving force was artist extraordinaire Phyllis Wichner. Together, they had many shows, visited museums, enjoyed retreats in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains and weekly Friday luncheons, often joined by artists and art students from around Knoxville and the Oak Ridge area.
In recent years, Phyllis initiated an ongoing “open printmaker studio,” which became a regular feature at the Art Center.
The Friday lunches are still going on. The three remaining artists of the original “League of United Nonconformist Artists” (L.U.N.A.) are gathering with new friends, all of whom where introduced to the group by Phyllis.
Dr. Ralph Kniseley‘s and his daughter’s work is a hotchpotch of styles, images, and colors. Father was an M.D. who practiced in or near Oak Ridge, then moved to Idaho, and eventually returned to East Tennessee. Retired now, he is an artist of exceptional expressionistic talent. Regrettably, this exhibit displays mainly his most mellow paintings that accord with the works of his daughter. Notwithstanding mostly colorful imagery, Ms. Van Wyk hides her emotions on lovely, yet empty canvasses.
Phyllis Wichner grew up in lower Manhattan. Art was her passion. She came to Oak Ridge to be a wife and a mother. But until her untimely death in 2013, she never let go of her calling. Sadly, her retrospective includes none of her early prints. She had many, so I was told; many with which my Female was familiar.
Well curated, in a sixties style, this exhibition reflects the maturity of a great artist. Monochrome figurative images come together with colorful triptychs, abstracts, and vivid visions. Wichner’s work could grip a viewer’s imagination far beyond the confines of the present show, if it were displayed in a more contemporary way, with a passion equaling her timeless art—art created with spirit and soul!