There is a name that is known throughout Manhattan, by artists, art-lovers and community members alike: Phyllis Pease. If you know her name you know her fame.
Pease is a local artist whose talent and creative mind have turned Aggieville into a gallery of her art. From the eye-catching portrait paintings in Bluestem Bistro, to the new mural outside of Taco Lucha, Pease is the one to thank for so much of the color and creativity that makes our little city a unique and charming gem.
She is a talented artist of all trades, from painting and graphic design, to restoring and transforming recycled furniture, scrap metal and clothing. There is no denying that creating is instinctive to her.
“I can't go a day without thinking about making something. It's just innate for me to want to make something and to share it,” Pease said.
Pease first got her start in art when she was a young girl in 4-H. Coming from a small 1A high school in Kingman, Kansas, she said that at the time of her attendance, her school lacked art classes and 4-H offered a place for her to express and nurture the imaginative and inventive pieces of herself. In 4-H, Pease competed in cooking, knitting and sewing, and her love for art only expanded from there. She went on to earn a Fine Arts degree in graphic design from Kansas State University, where she fell in love with Manhattan.
“This town has been really great to me,” she said.
It was here that Pease made a splash as a renowned artist. As a mother working inside the home, she created opportunities to work as a freelance designer. Today, Pease’s work is scattered all around town and can be seen displayed in popular spots including So Long Saloon, Bourbon & Baker, Rock-A-Belly Deli, and many more, even stretching all the way to Wichita.
Just this year, she contributed an exciting mural to a local favorite, Taco Lucha. The mural features three luchadores, one armed with a taco and another suspended in the air, perfectly posed for a smack-down. All of the wrestlers sport traditional uniforms— complete with vibrant masks. The fun has only begun with this piece, as Pease has recently attached a heavy-duty championship belt to the mural for patrons to take a selfie with. Taco ‘bout a good time.
When it comes to her craft, Pease ventures far outside of the box. Her ideas of art are inclusive and innovative.
When it comes to art, she said, “I don’t see things as if you have to just stay in one lane, because I think lots of things can be just as creative and as much a piece of art as a painting.”
She is gifted at finding potential and beauty in unexpected places, yielding fresh and original work. In fact, some of her work includes metal flowers she cut from old car hoods, and fabulous furniture that she fashioned from pieces she found in the trash.
“I enjoy making things from scratch, but I also love finding things in the dumpster and giving them a new life,” she said. She enjoys the challenge of different mediums and has the vision and artist’s eye to be able to spot a diamond in the rough.
This principle extends not only to her wide variety of art projects, but also to the inspiration for her work. Pease has an affinity for photography, and she collects found images of the past— many of which have inspired her art. She said that she loves old photographs, especially from the ’50s, and finds them comical.
“It’s fun to find those weird, awkward ones and to kind of make fun of it a little,” she said, reminiscing on one series she did of women in bras, based off of an old ad where women proclaimed they felt like international movie stars in their Maidenform brassieres.
Whether she’s finding inspiration in a vintage ad, an antique store or a family photo, one thing consistently catches her attention. “It’s always people,” she said.
Looking towards the future, Pease has plans for expansion. She would like to continue to have more art shows and to spread across the region, focusing her efforts on Kansas City. No matter where her art will be, it is clear that she has a bright future ahead of her.
“I just want to keep creating and finding new things. I have more ideas than I could possibly get done in a lifetime,” she said. “If you look at the history of women artists, when they really get going is in their 50s, and that’s where I am.”
To aspiring artists out there, Pease said that some of the best advice she ever received was from one of her professors at K-State who said, “Everything is not a masterpiece and your shit’s not that hot.”
Pease said that the reality of the business is that in today’s age your art has mere seconds of an audience’s attention until they move on. She said there is a lesson to be learned to not take yourself so seriously and it’s a process; you just have to keep moving forward.
“If you’re going to make something, make it cool, use it, and enjoy it. Do what makes you happy,” Pease said. She said the more art you do, the better you get, and she encourages others to keep their minds open to new ideas, to keep learning, and to travel.
From her travels, Pease has learned that different countries and people have their own unique approaches to art, design and living, and that everything should be beautiful— although this means something different to everyone.
“If I’m going to make something, from a chair to a plate of food, it doesn’t have to be expensive and it can be simple, but it should be thoughtful and beautiful. And I think it is human nature to do that. I think that’s a good way to live,” Pease said.
Pease’s art can be found on Etsy under the name Art Mercenary, and on her website: https://turquoise-mackerel-93f2.squarespace.com/.