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Phyllis Downs Ames Wiener  (1921-2013)

Phyllis Downs Ames Wiener was born on September 17, 1921 in Iowa City. She studied with Grant Wood at the University of Iowa, 1940; Russel Green at Stephens Columbia College (Missouri), 1944; Cameron Booth at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, 1950- 1953 & 1960-1962; and the Instituto Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, 1961.

She was one of the first women artists to embrace Minnesota’s abstract art movement.  In 1981, Wiener said: “Cameron Booth taught me about painting. I had many painting instructors, but Cameron Booth knew, and taught me, abstract expressionist ideas.  It was the way I came into painting.” 

Her art career encompassed teaching art at the Walker Art Center, University of Minnesota at Minneapolis in the Extension Division and General College, Minnetonka Art Center at Minnetonka, Normandale Jr. College at Edina, and the College of St. Catherine at St. Paul.  In the 1970s, she was one of the founding members of the Women’s Artist Registry of Minnesota (WARM).  Wiener's work over the years has incorporated many interests, ranging from landscape and figure elements to multicultural textile patterns. Wiener became one of the first woman artists to garner serious attention in the male-dominated art world of the 1950s and 60s.


Wiener's art was created, and then signed with her different last names throughout her life, since American women assumed their husbands last name during this era. This occurrence is common with women artists and if not documented will cause confusion in their lifetime body of work. Her maiden name is Zager with no art created under this name. She created, worked and exhibited under the following last names during these years: Phyllis Downs (1939–1961), Phyllis Ames (1962–1968) and Phyllis Wiener (1971– 2012).


Her painting and sculpture have been exhibited in galleries and museums across the U.S. and in Europe.  Major retrospective shows of her work have been presented at Macalester College in St. Paul and at the Katherine Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota.  Her work is included in numerous permanent collections, including the Minnesota Historical Society, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Walker Art Center, Mayo Clinic, Briggs and Morgan law firm, Thrivent Financial, Total Petroleum Company, 3M Company, and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum.


The artist passed away on New Year’s Day, 2013.

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