Phyllis Plattner

Obituary of Phyllis Ann Plattner


It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Phyllis Plattner (82), beloved wife, mother, friend, artist, and art professor. In spite of multiple ailments during the last few years (cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, and dementia) she was very strong and cheerful, making her sudden demise all the more shocking to her family.


Born in 1940 in Queens, NY to Sam and Sara Baron, Phyllis had innate artistic talent and drive. Her early love of art was fostered at the famous Music & Art High School in Manhattan, followed by a BA in art at Bennington College in Vermont and an MFA in painting at Claremont Graduate School in California. Her career as an artist was long and varied, with solo exhibitions in St. Louis, Chicago, Baltimore, New York, Washington DC, Princeton, and international solo exhibitions in Paris, France and Florence and Tavarnelle, Italy. Her first major museum exhibition was in 1984 at the St. Louis Art Museum, and her latest and most important was in 2015 at the American University Museum at the Katzen Art Center in Washington, DC. Grounded in careful observations of everyday moments underlined by sociopolitical commentary, her work ranged from early post-expressionist portraits to large-scale realist domestic scenes, to enormous watercolors of tropical plants. In the 1990’s she created moody multi-panelled oil pastel paintings of fruits and vegetables being cut open, titled “Murder in the Kitchen.” Her latest body of work, “Gods of War!” provided a visual commentary about society’s interrelated drives towards both war and peace. Structured like Renaissance altarpieces with complex gold-leaf frames, these pieces combine art historical sources with photojournalism and images of Zapatista rebel folk art. Over her more than fifty-year-long artistic career, working in her studio every day, she pushed herself to explore different themes with curiosity and intense focus.


In 1958, through a tight-knit group of artist-friends in the Lower East Side who called themselves “The Zeros,” she met her life partner and future husband Stuart Plattner. They married in New York in 1964 and headed across the country in their tiny, infamous Sunbeam Imp, landing in Palo Alto, California. Thus began an almost six-decades-long adventure together, including years living in Panajachel, Guatemala; Chiapas, Mexico; Cusco, Peru; and Tuscany, Italy, forging life-long friendships along the way. Long road-trip adventures helped create a magical childhood for their two children, Daniel and Jessica, who reaped the enduring benefits of international travel and exposure to a broad range of cultures. When not working abroad, the family lived in St. Louis, MO, where Phyllis taught art at Washington University, and later Bethesda, MD, where she commuted to teach at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. She also taught several semesters at MICA’s study abroad program in Florence, Italy. She often marvelled at her luck in teaching some of the best students in the world, and they in turn loved her. She had a special knack for recognizing the singular interests and gifts of each of her students as individuals, giving them focused and passionate feedback on their work.


Phyllis was fiercely beloved by so many dear friends around the world, who admired her creativity, insight, humour, and empathy.  She was valued especially for her ability to listen, becoming a source of comfort to friends in crisis as well as during good times. She is survived by her husband Stuart of Bethesda, MD, son Daniel of Greenbelt, MD, daughter Jessica (Dean) and granddaughter Sofonisba of Medicine Hat, AB, Canada, her brother Mike (Chana) of Woodbridge, CT, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. She was predeceased by her parents and her sister Margie (John). May her memory be a blessing to us all.


No service is scheduled at this time. Phyllis always said that she wanted her ashes scattered at Point Lobos in California; her family will honor her wishes at a future date.

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We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Rapp Funeral and Cremation Services
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