MIHO WICHMAN, ARTIST

 

Miho Wichman is the name Michael Wichman (1940 -), PhD in Mathematics from Northwestern University, uses for signing his art work. There were hundreds of people with the name Michael Wichman that showed up when I did an internet search but when I first searched “Miho Wichman” nothing came up.

 

On December 15, 2016, living in New Haven and Yale on Christmas break, I was totally bored. So, I started making sculptures and assemblages from items I scavenged from the beach in Clinton, CT where I had lived for about fifteen years. Soon I was also painting with acrylics on laminated boards and canvases.

 

Each work starts from scratch with no preconceived notion as to where the journey will end. Each incremental change to the work creates new problems to be solved and this continues until I feel the work is finished.  The naming of a work occurs only after the work is completed.

 

 

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Main influences:

 

Three artists that have most influenced my work are Morris Barazani, Fred Berger, and Alexander McBride. Included in this web site are the pictures of the works of these artists that I own as well as two sculptures of Ruth Aizuss Migdal.

 

 

Morris Barazani   (1924-2015)

 

Morris Barazani was Chair of the art department at DePaul University when I first met him in 1966, the same year I started teaching mathematics at DePaul.  Over time I acquired six works on canvas, eleven or more collages, and one untitled lithograph. Morris subsequently finished his academic career as Chair of the art department of the University of Illinois Chicago campus, at the time referred to as Circle Campus.

 

My first art purchase from Morris was “Polis” (1968, 60x66) in1968.  Second was an untitled work (1965, 77x61) purchased in 1969 and which I believe Morris thought to be his best work and which I shall referred to as “Varnished Truth”. The reason for the title “Varnished Truth” is because a month after I bought it, Morris said he wanted to come to my apartment and coat the painting with varnish. I do not know of any other painting of his that he coated with varnish. Third was  Blue Cadence (1970. 40x30) purchased in 1970. 

 

Polis caught my attention for its conveyance of vast energy and motion. Two years after I lived with it, the wife of one of my colleagues looked at it and said it is a woman. Sure enough, I could see what she saw and thereafter I could blink my eyes and look at the painting with either interpretation. Years later when I would visit Morris in his studio and he started a large canvas, it was not unusual for him to start with an outline drawing of a nude woman, which was often undetectable by the time the work was completed.

 

Varnished Truth was chosen after an hour of looking at a many paintings that Morris had stacked up in his living room and dining room. When I selected Varnished Truth and asked how much, Morris gave a price and I said okay. Then Morris said he had to ask his family (Gail and their daughters Andrea about age 13 and Andrea about age 11 and son about age 14) if he could sell it. In retrospect they all knew that he had worked on this painting over the course of a year and that he was very proud of it. Andrea asked Morris if she would get some money to spend from the sale. Morris said yes and Andrea without hesitation said SELL IT.

 

After my purchase of Varnished Truth at about the time of the academic Christmas New Year break, I hung the work on the only wall in my small apartment with enough space to display it and then spent many hours studying it. At the time I bought the work it was a totally abstract painting to my minds’ eye. But after a couple of weeks I noticed what looked like a bird that was upside down, and immediately called Morris and asked him if he was rotating the canvas over the course the year he worked on the canvas.

 

Morris asked how I knew the canvas was being rotated, and that he was not aware of any upside down birds. He came by a few days later by which time I had compiled a list of about thirty fairly recognizable images within the painting. Among the images were a horse, an elephant, a bear, various additional birds, cartoon characters such as snoopy, and a woman’s head. Morris acknowledged the images I pointed out to him but had not been conscious of their existence. When he was painting he was working on smaller areas creating to his conscious mind forms and color patterns.

 

The Barazani's living room and dining room were richly adorned with all sorts of objects and books, many of which were open to pages displaying birds and animals, which I believe influenced his subconscious decisions.

 

When Morris started looking closely he pointed out an image that sort of looked like a self portrait.

 

Blue Cadence I always thought of as the farm painting.  Morris was having a fire sale of smaller works and unframed collages at his house to raise money for a down payment on land in western Wisconsin that had an old farmhouse and barn. This land was for sale by a dairy farmer who had previously been a truck driver in Chicago, but having run into financial difficulties, sought to sell his back two hundred acres situated in a long valley with high hills bounding two sides of it. I got to the art sale about an hour after it started, walked up the stairs to the porch, entered a small ante room leading to the vestibule, and positioned on a big roll top desk was Blue Cadence in all its splendor. Morris came out of the living room to greet me, I asked if anyone expressed interest in Blue Cadence, he said no, I asked how much, he gave a price, I said I am leaving for a trip to Europe for the summer in two days and that I could pay one third now and the balance in the autumn. Morris said “sold”.     

 

 His wife Gail told me some years later that they met a woman who had grown up in the farm house. This woman and her sister walked about a mile from the farm house to the country road that let to Boscobel and then walked several miles more to go to school, after which they walked back home.

 

Morris gave the town the right of way his very long driveway so that the town could maintain and plow the road in winter. Morris was able to have the town name this road Painter Lane The last large work I bought from Morris around 1990, titled “Springside at Painter Lane” (68”x80”), was motivated by this idyllic farm setting.

 

After I returned to Connecticut from Chicago in 2000, I made a trip to Chicago about every five years. Morris always had a few smaller paintings leaning by the fireplace in their living room, and by the time I left, I would select one for purchase. Two of the titles were “Little Yellow Ball Game” (oil 30x24) and “Moonwatch” (oil 24x22).

 

Over the course of years I also acquired numerous untitled collages by Morris.

 

Morris and his family were among my very closest friends, and I visited their house often. When there I would study recently completed works as well as works in progress. Many times while Morris was painting he would let me watch silently. So I saw how he often started his abstract paintings as well as their evolution over time to a finished piece.

 

In the 1970s Morris and I started a private gallery in my new townhouse which was blessed with ample wall space. Morris sourced the artists and invitations were sent to the combined indexes of the artists. We named the gallery Pamplemousse at the suggestion of his daughter Andrea. Andrea was studying French and just loved the sound of the French word for grapefruit.

 

It was through Pamplemousse that I met both Fred Berger and Ruth Aizuss Migdal. It turned out that Ruth lived just a block away from me, so I was able to visit her basement studio numerous times. This resulted in my acquiring the multi breast sculpture. Later on Ruth kindly gifted me a small Raku nude woman.

 

Alexander McBride (1940-)

 

We first met when in kindergarten class. His nickname was Sandy. After third grade his family moved to another part of town and we did not see each other until junior high.

 

After Sandy’s family moved again to within a few blocks from me, we spent more time together. He always seemed to have a sketch book with him in which he drew elaborate cartoon characters. Then in my senior year of high school I walked into the school library where there was an exhibit of student art and first saw a portrait of me by Sandy. I had never poised for it and I was not aware of Sandy having a photo of me. This experience is what got me interested in art. Many years later his first wife told me that Sandy had the amazing ability to study someone and carry the image in his head back to the studio.

 

Sandy went to Rhode Island School of design and subsequently earned a MFA at Cornell University. RISD was where Sandy met his first wife. I was best man at the wedding which took place in Keen, New Hampshire. My parents also were invited and as we were approaching the church on foot, my top shirt button sprung to the sidewalk. As I leaned down to pick up the button, my pants zipper broke. It was a Saturday but after a frantic search we found a tailor who managed to put me back together.

 

A few years later I visited Sandy and Julie in a house they were renting on Lake Bomoseen in Vermont. The day was warm and sunny, the setting beautiful. Sandy brought out lots of paintings to the front lawn and proceeded to lean them in succession against the trunk of a large maple tree .It took me a long time to whittle my options down to two still life paintings, and then half an hour to select one of them. I still have the work. It has stood the test of time.  In 2011 I visited Sandy and his second wife near State College, PA.  When I entered their dining room, hanging on the wall was the other of the two paintings. They both stood the test of time.

 

Sandy finished his academic teaching career chairing the art department of Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA. On my occasional trips between Connecticut and Chicago I would stop to visit. I would go to his studio and often purchased one of his paintings. Somehow, with the exception of one work, all my purchases were unsigned.

 

Sandy brought some of his works to exhibit at Pamplemousse, the gallery endeavor of Morris and me. One of these works was the largest of his works that I purchased. Often when Morris and I discussed Sandy, Morris would praise Sandy as a fine artist.

 

Sandy also introduced me to an amazing potter named Jack Troy who now teaches at Juniata College.

 

 

Fred Berger (1923-2006)

 

Fred exhibited both TWO and the charcoal drawing of a head on brown paper at Pamplemousse. One of the consequences of living in a gallery is that one falls in love with the works as a result of having a lot of time for close viewing. I ended up buying these two works.

 

Fred told me that for the picture TWO he used to go to parks in Chicago and make sketches of old men, and then go back to his studio and make unfired clay heads from the drawings, and then use the clay heads as models for painting his pictures.. He said he found it easier to do this than to paint using the drawings directly. The clay head displayed was given to me by Fred, although this head was not used for the painting TWO. Fred spent a year on TWO as a result of a benefactor providing him financial support so that Fred did not have to teach for the year. Many years later I lent TWO to Fred for a multi person show in the lobby of the Sears Tower in Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago purchased from Fred a huge drawing on brown paper that depicted all sorts of elaborate serpents. 

 

Ruth Aizuss Migdal

 

I last met Ruth in the autumn of 1916 at the memorial for Morris and learned that instead of clay and raku she now creates huge beautiful outdoor metal sculptures. You can see some of her works by doing an internet search on her full name.

African Mask

My friend Paul was cleaning out his garage across the  alley fro where I used to live. He asked if I wanted the mask as he was going to throw it out. I did not know the country of origin of the mask at the time, but asked an expert on African art for information. He informed me that the mask is of a very well known type from the Marka people of Mali and Burkina Faso.