The Artist Sees Differently: Shelly Wischhusen
SHELLY WISCHHUSEN, chief preparator
Were you an artist before you started to work at the Phillips, and how did you learn about the Phillips?
I have always been an artist – since I was little! I was an art major in high school; I received my BFA in drawing and painting from the University of Georgia and my MFA in painting from The George Washington University here in D.C. I first learned of The Phillips Collection when my (University of Georgia) painting teachers did a spring-break field trip (in 1973) with some of the painting students up to Washington, D.C. I had never been to D.C., and the first stop was the National Gallery of Art and then the Phillips. After we saw all the beautiful works up at The Phillips Collection, I thought then and there, “I would like to work here some day.”
Do you feel you are inspired by the Phillips?
The Phillips Collection inspires me daily – that’s why I have stayed here for most of my working life. I know I am lucky to be able to handle art daily, participate in every exhibition we do, and just absorb the surroundings. It’s an ideal “day job” for an artist. I also work a modified four-day week, which provides me three days straight each week to do my own artwork.
What do you listen to as you paint?
I listen to mostly old-time country and bluegrass music. My favorite time was Sunday mornings for Stained Glass Bluegrass on WAMU-FM with Red Shipley. Red Shipley has passed on and WAMU transferred all its bluegrass programming to HD radio, so I had to buy one to continue to listen.
Who’s your favorite artist in the collection?
Do you collect other artwork – or anything?
I collect everything! I have a lot of artwork – much by my artist friends, I own some works on paper by very well-known artists, I also own works by Australian Aboriginal painters, and work by “outsider” artists. I have a big ethnographic collection – everything from tribal weavings from the Middle East, to American Indian baskets, to Pre-Columbian works. I also have a huge collection of found natural objects: shells, rocks, nests, etc.
What’s your favorite Marjorie Phillips painting?
My favorite Marjorie painting is probably Nasturtiums (1951).