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Issue Date: April 2007 Issue


Fresh Perspective


Tori Woods

Her works are at once bold and intimate, colorful and detailed. They offer striking skyline views, unique angles and a lively interplay between the mix of buildings, monuments and landmarks that translate the pulse of the modern metropolis.

Artist Phyllis Seltzer has shown her compelling creations in more than 50 exhibitions. They are included in more than 30 public and corporate collections. And at age 79, she is still going strong. This month her intricate works will be the focus of ARTE, opening April 6 at Convivium33 Gallery. 

“Her pieces are really about the journey,” says gallery owner Alenka Banco, who curated Seltzer’s exhibition. “She’s a master painter, a master printmaker. You can see that in the work. It’s excellent quality.”

And her powerful visual depictions of Cleveland — to be featured in the show alongside works that capture the energy of Italy (Seltzer and her husband live in Venice for part of the year) and New York City — will make you look at common sights in new ways.   

“I’ve done so much of the city — the downtown area, the Gateway area,” says Seltzer, who resides here most of the year. “The focus is where the tall buildings are, or where the unusual structures are.” 

She employs an artistic method known as heat transfer — a technique she started using 25 years ago, after learning about it in a Cleveland workshop hosted by the New Organization for the Visual Arts. Seltzer first creates an oil painting on linen, which is broken into a grid that corresponds with the 11-by-17-inch heat-transfer paper. A color copier transposes the images from the linen to the pages of heat-transfer paper, which are then reassembled with glue and tacked image-side-down to the paper that will hold the final print. After 10 minutes in a heated press, the transfer paper is carefully removed and the process is complete. 

“They’re beautiful,” says Seltzer. “They do not fade in ultraviolet light. It’s the only color-print method that doesn’t.”

Born in Detroit in 1928, Seltzer moved with her mother and father to Cleveland at age 3. She felt a pull toward the arts as a child — a fascination that led her to the Cleveland Museum of Art, where she took art classes and began a journey that would eventually pass back through the museum over the years as several of her creations were added to the institution’s permanent collection. 

“I went to Saturday morning classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art as a very young child,” Selzter recalls. “It was painting. I’ve always been interested in color and graphics.”

After graduating from Cleveland Heights High School, she attended the University of Iowa, where she studied printmaking under graphic arts pioneer Mauricio Lasansky and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in fine art. The year she finished college, her etching “Stages of Life” was purchased by the Cleveland Museum of Art. She later took post-graduate courses, including architecture, and became involved in the city’s civic scene. One look at her body of work, and it’s clear that the grip the city’s geography has on her imagination — much like her artistic process — refuses to fade with time. 

“It is on the lake, which is a primary,” Selzter says. “[It has] a lot of water and a central part, which is the downtown. … Visually, it’s a beautiful city.”

Phyllis Seltzer’s ARTE can be seen at Convivium33 Gallery April 6 through May 6. The gallery is open Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to noon and daily by appointment. An opening reception will feature a live performance by Opera Cleveland April 6 at 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.josphatartshall.com.


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