Artist, educator John Wisnosky
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Paula Rath
John Wisnosky, a prolific painter and former chairman of the University of Hawai'i art department, died May 14. He was 66.
"He was really one of the key people in the local art scene," said Greg Northrup, owner of Fine Art Associates, who represented Wisnosky since the mid-1970s. "He was an important player, not only in the university community but in the art community. He is well collected in the corporate and private sectors."
Wisnosky's works appear in such prominent places as the Pacific Club, Oahu Country Club, Bank of Hawaii, First Hawaiian Bank and the Hawai'i Convention Center.
His media were predominately acrylic and watercolor. His early, and perhaps best-known, paintings portrayed ethereal clouds and valleys achieved with a delicate air- brush technique.
Tom Klobe, curator of the art gallery at the UH-Manoa and a close friend, said Wisnosky "was a character, and he really sincerely loved people. He loved to be around people and to organize things for them, especially parties. I could count on him to carry it off with great finesse."
Klobe also praised Wisnosky's administrative abilities: "He was the kind of boss who would allow you to just run. It was really inspirational. ... He allowed me to grow."
There was a brief time when Wisnosky experimented with working in a completely different style. Rather than his ethereal abstracts, he painted realistic portrayals of people and landscapes inspired by photographs taken by his daughter, Mimi, in New York. He decided to use a "pen name," so to speak, for this series, SAM redspoon.
Klobe said the name "redspoon" came from an incident in the artist's studio when a cat ran through the room and knocked over something on the work table. Wisnosky picked up a spoonful of red paint and hurled it at the cat. He missed the cat. "The red spoon is still stuck to the wall in the studio," Klobe said.
George Woollard of Palolo, an artist and art teacher at the Academy Art Center at Linekona, said Wisnosky was one of his advisers at UH-Manoa. He called Wisnosky "the backbone of the art department as well as a prolific artist: In addition to teaching and administering, he always found time for his own art."
Wisnosky was born in Springfied, Ill., on March 21, 1940.
Artist Lee Chesney, who lives in Los Angeles, taught Wisnosky at the University of Illinois-Urbana, where Wisnosky received his BFA in 1962 and MFA in 1964. They reconnected in Hawai'i when they both taught at UH-Manoa. In the early 1970s, the two artists shared a studio in Chinatown.
Chesney remembers Wisnosky in college as "a big fraternity man and party boy. He was quite gregarious and liked everyone. He got along with everyone and was always full of life."
During his time at UH- Manoa, Chesney said, Wisnosky would always go to bat for his teachers and the art department.
Klobe is planning a retrospective of Wisnosky's work in the Gallery Iolani at Windward Community College Jan. 19 through mid-February 2007.
Wisnosky is survived by his wife, MiMi; daughter, Mimi Wisnosky-Chang; grandson, Sky; and brother, August. The service is private.
Reach Paula Rath at email@example.com.