Vernon Fisher, 80, of Fort Worth, Professor Emeritus of art and one of the leaders of post-modern painting, died April 24.
Fisher was a nationally renowned artist whose work has been displayed at the Whitney Biennial, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, as well as many other museums and galleries around the country and internationally. He received numerous prestigious grants, including the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Fisher’s works came of age at the dawning of post-modernism, as a group of artists transitioned from abstract expression to post-modern irreverence, humor and representation.
His works often featured a complex mix of elements, with subjects that often don’t mix together. His pieces could include cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse and Olive Oyl, landscape vignettes, maps and grids, and words.
“My work comes off as ambiguous because it was created to do so,” he said in a 1997 North Texan article. “I want people to think about what they’re seeing, so that they leave not with a factual understanding of what they saw, but rather with a feeling of ‘getting it.’”
Fisher taught at UNT from 1978 to 2009, where he was a Regents Professor known for mentoring and inspiring his students. They included Celia Alvarez Muñoz (’82 M.F.A.), Texas State 2D Artist for 2022, and musician Sara Hickman (’86).
In 2019, UNT featured an exhibition of Fisher's paintings and sculptures called Words and Pictures, which featured his work from 1980 to 2019.
A documentary about his life, Breaking the Code, made by UNT M.F.A. media arts student Michael Flanagan, premiered at the Dallas International Film Festival April 29 and also was screened at Denton’s Thin Line Film Fest on April 30.
Fisher received his bachelor’s degree from Hardin-Simmons University and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois. Before coming to UNT, he served as associate professor of art at Austin College from 1969 to 1978.