Phyllis Sloane

American, 1921 - 2009

Phyllis Sloane was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1921, the youngest of five children to Nathan and Gussie Lester (migrants to the USA by 1905 from Belorussia). The family moved frequently with Nathan’s rise in various companies as a skilled mechanical engineer and inventor. The family eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio in 1929.

Since her very first art award as an elementary student at the Onaway School in Shaker Heights, Phyllis explored art through various mediums and techniques. She later wrote “I am indebted to my father Nathan Lester for showing me by example the challenges and joys of pursuing a creative life”.

Phyllis earned her BFA from Carnegie Institute of Technology in Industrial Design in 1943. With its simplified forms derived from her studies in industrial design, Sloane’s early works reveal a number of formal considerations upon which she was to build paintings and prints for the next five decades. A painting from that period “Airplane Wing” (1943) was exhibited in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s May Show that year. 

Sloane encountered understandable frustration in the 1950s when family life began to compete with her life as an artist. “All women artists who had children felt guilty”, she once said. Though she discarded her hopes for a career in industrial design, Sloane refused to give up her artistic passion. Instead she adapted, altering her subject matter and technological approach. She drew and painted her three young children; then formed a sketch group with several artist friends;  “I sketched from life one day a week. We either hired models or enlisted friends to pose”. These early sketches formed the basis for many later prints and paintings.

 The abstract expressionist movement in the 1950s heavily influenced Sloane’s work early in her career, as seen in “Big Blue Abstract” (1955-60) and her silkscreen monoprints of 1961. Like her Carnegie Tech classmate and friend Roy Lichtenstein, she gravitated towards more representational work in the 1960s and was strongly influenced by the Pop Art movement at that time. 

In 1959 Sloane acquired an old printing press that she refurbished and thus began her life-long love of and experimentation around printmaking. She initially started printing wood and linoleum cuts in her basement; then she discovered that a fine-grained bulletin board cork was marvelous to work with. She may be the first artist to use cork for relief prints, and perhaps the only one to have produced a large body of work with this medium. The cork cut “Still Life with Fern”, a 1977 Cleveland Museum of Art May Show award winner, shows the influence of Matisse.

Sloane turned to silkscreen when she encountered registration problems trying to add color to her cork cuts. Sloane drew great inspiration here too in her printmaking from Henri Matisse’s late works with their broad blocks of bold colors; as well as turn-of-the-century French Nabis, Bonnard and Vuillard. Total integration of the figure with its setting became a major theme of a series of opulent silkscreens created in the mid-seventies, including “The Daydream” (1977) and “Redhead” (1978), which is closer in spirit to Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. 

Sloane continued to develop her printmaker’s craftsmanship and was influenced strongly by Alex Katz and Will Barnet who shared her interest in depicting the female figure. She wrote “I really did admire Alex Katz. He was doing figures when it was not fashionable to do figures, and the same thing with Diebenkorn and David Hockney. And earlier it was Picasso and Matisse. I love the way Toulouse-Lautrec drew, and I love the way Degas created figurative compositions.” Stimulated by a move part-time to Santa Fe, New Mexico in the late 1970s Sloane broadened her work into cityscapes and still lifes and began to work more extensively with other printmaking techniques (etchings, lithographs, monoprints and heat transfer prints) and watercolors. Her lithograph “Homage to Leger” (1883) received the first prize and purchase award in the Sixth Miami International Print Biennial in 1984. 

Sloane’s achievements included over 20 solo shows including a 2004 retrospective at the Las Vegas Museum of Art.  Her work also is in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Art Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art and in numerous private and corporate art collections. 

There have been several major publications relating to Sloane’s art including The Art of Phyllis Sloane by H Daniel Butts III in 1996, Phyllis Sloane Retrospective Exhibition by James Mann, The Printmaking Techniques of Phyllis Sloane by Robert Bell in 2004 and Bold & Brilliant–Phyllis Sloane’s Pop Portraits by Christopher Richards in 2014.

Phyllis Sloane died in 2009 having devoted over 60 years to producing thousands of works of art as a print-maker, painter and watercolor artist. 

 

SELECTED AWARDS

1985, North Carolina Print and Drawing Annual, Purchase Award

1985, Anderson Winter Show; Anderson, IN, Purchase Award

1984, Ohio Watercolor Society, Nationwide Insurance Award

1984, Miami International Print Biennial, Purchase Award

1982, City of Cleveland (OH), Visual Arts Award

1981, Oklahoma National Exhibition, Graphics Award

1978, Cleveland (OH) Museum of Art, May Show, Graphics Award

1977, Print Club of Philadelphia (PA), Purchase Award

1977, Hunterdon National Print Exhibition, Hunterdon, PA, Purchase Award

 

COMMISSIONS

1999, University Print Club, Cleveland, OH; etching and heat transfer print editions

1992, Society National Bank, Cleveland, OH; eight acrylic paintings

1983, Cleveland Print Club, Cleveland, OH; silkscreen print edition

1979, Alex Rosenberg Gallery, New York, NY; four silkscreen print editions

1977, University Print Club, Cleveland, OH; silkscreen print edition

1973, City of Cleveland, OH; building mural design

1973, Multigraph Corporation, Cleveland, OH; relief print edition
1973, NOVA Inaugural Printmakers Portfolio, Cleveland, OH; silkscreen print
phyllis-sloane-paintings

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