WYSO – American Visionary Artist.
Frank “WYSO” Wysochansky -1915-1994
“In his insatiable desire to make art everyday, all the time, and without regard for formal concerns beyond the internal impulse, he clearly fits the bill of a ‘visionary.’ His best work follows the wind in his mind…very brilliant and strange.”
Between post-WW II until his death on September 14, 1994, Frank Wysochansky “WYSO” produced over 5,000 works of art and thousands of cartoons. He created his art working furiously, creating with pen, ink, watercolor, Crayola crayon and sculptural materials. Spreading melted crayons across canvases and carving out images. Creating figural sculptures from Bondo, an inexpensive automotive body repair product that he worked around armatures such as chicken bones, light bulbs, bags of sand and wire coat hangers.
WYSO was one of twelve children born to Ukrainian immigrants. His father, Joseph, was a coal miner who lost his life in a mining accident. It was WYSO’s intimate knowledge of miners and their families that was to influence his art throughout his life.
WYSO left the public schools after seventh grade. WYSO’s career as an artist first began as a freelance cartoonist, largely for the United Mine Workers Journal between 1946 and 1969. During this time he also developed his bright multi-media technique by applying watercolor, pen and ink and crayon. His subjects, though largely centered around miners and their family lives, also included religious, ethnic and landscape influences. The last area WYSO developed was his sculpture, whose surfaces appear cobwebbed, covered in veins, and then dusted with silvery pewter giving the appearance of metal.
During his career, WYSO won many awards. Particularly noteworthy were his invitations to exhibit in the American Drawing Biennial in Norfolk, VA. He was first invited as one of 150 artists selected in 1969 by John Canady of the New York Times from among 1,425 entries. His second invitation was in 1971 when Henry Pitz of American Artist magazine chose his drawing as one of 126 out of 1,683 pieces entered. In addition, in 1972 he was listed in the international La Revue Moderne des arts et de la vie as an important American artist, and in the 1972-73 edition of Artists/USA Guide to Contemporary American Art.
Between 1965 and 1994 WYSO showed in over fifty exhibits. Among his most successful solo shows were The Potter’s House of Coffee, Washington, DC; Lynn Kottler Galleries, New York, NY; Omnía, New York, NY; The Hahn Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; The Reception Gallery, Nabisco, Inc., New Hanover, NJ; The Balch Institute, Philadelphia, PA..
Since his death in 1994 WYSO’s works have been widely exhibited in galleries, educational institutions and public forums. Featured in both National Public Radio and Pennsylvania Cable Network programming a new excitement is currently being enjoyed by the many old patrons and new found admirers of WYSO.
A “40 Year Retrospective”, held at Monsoon Gallery, Bethlehem, PA served as a new starting point to build on the recognition gained in his earlier years.
Two major shows at Bethlehem’s Lehigh University, and shows in those coal regions that he so poignantly documented, fueled a desire to create a long lasting tribute to this artist and his work. Among these shows were: Northumberland Council for The Arts, Shamokin, PA; Downtown Mount Carmel Inc., Mount Carmel, PA; Hazleton Art League, Hazleton, PA; Miners Heritage Festival, Lansford, PA; Pioneer Coal Mine, Ashland, PA; Historical Society Schuylkill County, Pottsville, PA; Outsider Art Gallery, Reading, PA; Goggle Works, Reading, PA; Sigal Museum,Easton, PA; Outsider Art Fair, New York, NY; Mauch Chunk Museum, Jim Thorpe, PA; Susquehanna Art Museum, Harrisburg, PA.
Several publicly funded projects were undertaken to give larger than life recognition to the life’s work of WYSO in the form of a painted mural for Mount Carmel, PA and monumental bronze miner on the banks of the Lackawanna River, overlooking the Northeastern PA coal town of Olyphant.
The WYSO Foundation, located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has been established in his honor and to preserve and share the body of work crafted over his lifetime.
WYSO represents a common man with uncommon talents and vision, an American treasure, who portrays events through the eyes of immigrants forging a new life during challenging times, yet ever embracing their faith and love of God and their ancestral heritage. More information about WYSO is available at www.wyso.org