Phyllis Gillie Jaffe
  • Female
  • Salisbury, MD
  • United States
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  • David Robertson

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Profile Information

Organization or Business Name
Contact Email
Art Interests
Arts Administration, Arts Ministry, Arts Organization, Fiber Arts, Painting
Artist / Personal Statement

Artist Statement

Phyllis Phantasy Physh were inspired during a period of deep emotional conflict in my life, but not to create a decorative fish. During one period I was working away from home. Either my husband would visit on the weekend or I would drive home. During the week I sat in my apartment alone. One weekend I experienced a vision of myself as clergy, which I denied. A second time I was actually performing clerical duties. My argument with God began. God had made a mistake in calling me to ministry. Wrong person. I listed my faults to no avail. Getting no relief from the mental messages, I completely withdrew from any religious connection. Only a year later for my husband’s funereal did I step inside a church.

Instead I felt compelled to paint Physh. I drew the shapes, my husband cut them out of wood, and I painted nights after work. Before long I had dozens drying on the floor. When I tired of painting wooden ones, I painted on watercolor paper. I could NOT stop painting Physh. My friends all received one or two, I sold a few, most as craft items. My tassel with God continued. Discussing my progress with an artist – clergy friend, she said “Oh, Phyllis, that is obvious. You are painting Christian symbols of fish, using a contemporary artist’s version. These are religious paintings”. I didn’t see it, but didn’t protest when she proceeds to get her church to display the Physh as contemporary religious art. Before the exhibit could come to pass, she died. Soon afterwards so did my husband. The Physh were put in the back of the closet.

During the readjustment to my widowed status, it became clear that I had unfinished business, and needed to get to seminary, even if only to put my “toe in the water”. I loved early Christian history and art, graduated with two degrees and was ordained. My ministry has become connecting the spirituality of my art to creation and the meaning of life. In my case I do not rely on another artist’s vision of how to project Christian faith. The current Physh images reflect greater depth in my identification with the Holy Spirit.

The Physh stand on their own as works of art, relying heavily on color, texture and pattern to convey meaning. I was slow to recognize this connection. Fortunately for me, it has been other artists’ belief that the Physh transcend the realm of craft into the world of fine arts and a true expression of creative energy. The Physh are no longer decorative wooden images for the wall. They have evolved and matured into significant paintings ready to grace a gallery wall, church foyer or home.
Accomplishments / CV
Honorary Doctorate of Art from Kendall College of Art & Design; midwest and east coast art awards for paintings


I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t engaged in some creative activity. As a young teenager I designed and made doll clothes for movie money. After a full career in education for the arts, teaching elementary through university levels, I moved into administration as president of a fine arts college. Since retiring my time is committed to painting and regional arts organizations.

My BA degree is from Ball State University, my doctorate from Indiana University, plus an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from Kendall College of Art and Design. My seminary degrees are from Seabury Western and Wesley Seminaries. Ordained in 2009, I served three years as a hospital chaplain in the Washington, DC area.
For seven years I served as an international management consultant to developing countries, where I assisted in developing regional art centers in Eastern Europe and organizing women’s craft programs in Nepal and India. My own art developed through a series of continuing transformations from textile wall hangings to symbolic and decorative images, to landscape drawings and paintings. The current work emphasizes color, texture and pattern, while I continue developing my Impressionist painting style. My paintings have won awards in several juried exhibits in the mid-west and east coast in group and one-women shows. A book on contemporary trends in iconography is on hold. Specific details and exhibits are available upon request.

May 2012
Phyllis Gillie Jaffe

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At 4:29pm on September 27, 2013, David Robertson said…

Welcome to the CIVA Network!

Such wonderful work!  Psalm 71:17-18 says that we are to “Praise His wondrous works and declare His strength and power to this generation”.  You are certainly doing that.

One of the reasons I joined CIVA is to connect with like-minded people with a passion for the arts and how it can touch a person’s soul.  I see that you are in the Washington DC area (I live in Stafford, Virginia). 

Here’s a link to my web page/portfolio at CIVA (


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