Carolyn Plochmann (1926 - 2023)

Carolyn Plochmann

It is with a heavy heart WheelHouse Art shares news of the passing of long-time gallery artist Carolynn Plochmann at the age of 97.

Carolyn Gasan Plochman was born in 1926 in Toledo, Ohio, the only child of Edward and Elizabeth Gassan. She describes her midwestern upbringing as a lyrical blend of aestheticism and the Protestant work ethic. [Matthew F. Daub]

Her storied career as an artist began at the age of 15 with a solo exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art. She received her B.A. degree in 1947 from the University of Toledo, soon followed with an M.F.A. degree in 1949 from the University of Iowa, where she was a George W. Stevens fellow from the Toledo Museum of Art.

Plochmann's work has been exhibited and included in the collections of numerous museums, including Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, Evansville, IN; Tupperware Art Museum, Orlando, FL; Laura Musser Museum, Muscatine, IA; University of Chicago Libraries Collection, Chicago, IL; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, TN; Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN; Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, IL; Jersey City Museum, Jersey City, NJ; and more.

She exhibited for nearly thirty years with the famed Kennedy Galleries in New York, NY from the mid 1970s through the turn of the century. She has been exhibiting her paintings with B. Deemer Gallery/WheelHouse Art for the past 15 years.


Carolyn Plochmann in her own words.


Carolyn Plochmann, "Ulster County"
Above: CAROLYN PLOCHMANN, Ulster County. Mixed media on canvas, 18 x 24 inches.

“Quite often, a painter is asked for a favorite quotation to reveal something of himself and his work. If I were thus queried, my reply would be lines attributed to Rico Lebrun in a book written by a friend: "I made up a story once, of Dürer, Michelangelo, and Grünewald, painting from the same model. After a while Michelangelo says to Dürer, What's that scratching noise, Al? and where's Matthias?' And the model finally lets on: 'He's crawled right under my skin and inside me,' she says, 'and now he's scratching, trying to find his way out." Yes! to this - and to a three-by-five inch slip taped to my easel, carrying the words of Meister Eckhart: "Only the hand that erases can write the true thing." If I have once in a while been fortunate enough to paint a true thing, it was after scratching my way out and after countless erasures and fresh starts.

Speaking in painterly terms, my early work was markedly linear and perhaps rightly called expressionistic. When the line itself became one with color, the paintings took on a greater solidity, in which I hoped internal events as I lived and felt them could take shape in more nearly sculptural form. The use of shallow space, without consistent perspective, seems to be a constant by inner necessity, not theory, in my work. I believe that it must be that the sense of the real, though derived always from life, is less a visual real than an intellectual one; and it seems more natural to me to create distance and space by means of color itself, when I am able.

No doubt many of the themes and implications of the paintings owe much to the smaller world in which I grew up, where Bach's "God's Time is Best" was a given, and painting, a calling for which one gave thanks, all questionings and erasures notwithstanding. I still give thanks every time I paint.”


“There is a certain mystique that prevails; leaving a painting at the end of a day's work and a certain feeling that one requires so that it is right to begin work again the next morning.”


“A sense of living in both time and timelessness was implicit in the natures of my father and mother, and in our largely German Lutheran background. Inseparable from my responses to life as a whole was our house, ever changing as my mother's sensitivity to color and shape renewed itself each day. An urge to put a persimmon-colored cloth against freshly painted white woodwork, or to arrange the patterns of light through the leaves of a geranium in the sunlight falling upon a yellow floor. These were matters for my mother, of her special care. I still have my father's striping brushes, some of his carefully blended pigments, and the fine cupboards that he built. He could work small marvels with wood and tools, or with the broken wing of a bird. It was a peaceful, esthetic, industrious world in our home, in which my parents loved what was "good, worthy and honorable in life, and lived according to these things."”

—Carolyn Plochmann


Words on Carolyn Plochmann from admirers.


Carolyn Plochmann, "The Lesson"
Above: CAROLYN PLOCHMANN, The Lesson. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches.


“In this advanced age of marketing in the fine arts, one important aspect of contemporary painting is being seriously overlooked... the calm world of poetry and reflection... Take the work of Carolyn Gassan Plochmann... Her subject matter is human beings or still lifes which she treats in a compellingly moody and poetic way. Plochmann adores paint, texture and the building up of complex surfaces of the painted material, layer after layer... sometimes dozens of them... illuminated with an occasional flash of gold leaf. Almost every square inch of her work is enhanced with fabulous harmonies of line and delicate nuances of color... the work has about it almost the aura of alchemy, seemingly rational and mysterious at the same time.”

--Thomas Hoving (1931 – 2009), former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1967-1977


Carolyn Plochmann, "Chair"
Above: CAROLYN PLOCHMANN, Chair. Mixed Media on canvas, 18 x 24 inches.


“Encountering the work of Carolyn Gassan Plochmann, we come to a window open for us by fresh wisdom. It is a window through which we glimpse something new, significant, and universal. We stop involuntarily, but in our fist momentary pause we realize that we are looking not merely at the new but at all the ages of man… To say that Carolyn Plochmann shows an extraordinary co-ordination of dexterity and thought is only to recognize the obvious, so we can go on to consider what comes after this, which is the utter sublimating of that co-ordination. It has been almost inadvertently sublimated, however, following long and intelligent self-discipline, motivated by sensitivity and objective love.”

— R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 – 1983), American architect, systems theorist, writer, designer, inventor, philosopher, and futurist.


Carolyn Plochmann, "Change"
Above: CAROLYN PLOCHMANN, Change. Mixed Media on canvas, 24 x 30 inches.


“Carolyn Plochmann has not followed current trends in art, nor has her style of painting radically changed over the years. Few artists have had the courage and vision to pursue a career in painting that has matured and deepened, while adhering consistently to the same underlying artistic standards. Plochmann's forms are clearly defined; at first sight, easily comprehended, as they have always been. But the meaning of these forms as composed and defined has become increasingly complex and varied. At first, the paintings may seem quiet, reserved, contemplative, subdued, their color subtle and their texture rich and varied. On closer study, however, these qualities yield to the deeper meaning of what is depicted. The paintings are, after all, enigmatic and suggestive rather than definitive; they are not at all what they initially seem to be. Although their subject matter seems centered on the artist's own family life and on her love of nature, the juxtaposition of seemingly easily understood forms reveals deeply felt personal intuitions about life's mysteries. Plochmann's art provides ample reward for the perceptive viewer, willing to allow time to discover the deeper meanings in these beautifully crafted and richly painted paintings.”

— Otto Wittman (1911 – 2001), Director Emeritus Toledo Museum of Art

Carolyn Plochmann