Harold Zisla: Life - Work (DVD)

Medium: Disc
Size: 4.72 in X 4.72 in

Harold Zisla was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1925. When he was six years old a neighbor told his mother that he had artistic talent. That event started more than eighty years of drawing, painting, learning and thinking about art for Zisla. Activities which he is still, daily, involved in at the age of 87.

His first art classes were at the Council Educational Alliance, Cleveland, Ohio, starting in 1931. By the time he was seven he was taking classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio. At 12 those classes became scholarship classes which continued until he was seventeen, in 1942. Zisla graduated in 1943 from East Technical High School in Cleveland with a major in art. From his high school graduation until 1946 (through the end of World War Two) he was in the U. S. Navy.

In 1946 Harold Zisla returned to Cleveland where he married Doreen, his wife of 67 years. He attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and Case-Western Reserve University. In 1950 he received a diploma from the Cleveland Institute of Art, with a major in painting, and a B.S. in Art Education from Case-Western Reserve University. In 1951 he received an M.A. in Art Education from Case-Western Reserve University.

In 1952 he moved to Michiana. He had spent some time, while in the Navy, attending classes at the University of Notre Dame and was familiar with the area. He moved to take a job as an industrial designer at Uniroyal in Mishawaka, Indiana. He continued at Uniroyal until 1957.

From 1957 through 1966 Harold Zisla was the Executive Director of the South Bend Art Center, South Bend, Indiana. Those nine years saw significant growth of the Art Center. They also saw tragedy. A devastating fire burned the structure housing the organization to the ground. Zisla oversaw a move to a new location and the rebuilding of the organization, with increased exposure and increased participation. For Zisla personally this time saw an increased questioning of, and movement away from, the academic training and figurative style of his youth.

In 1966 Zisla became an Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Indiana University at South Bend with a specific goal of building a Fine Arts Department. In 1968 he was appointed the first Chair of the Fine Arts Department at IUSB. In 1970 he became an Associate Professor of Fine Arts and, in 1979, Professor of Fine Arts. In 1979 he received the All University Teaching Award (Amoco Foundation Award) for the entire Indiana University system and in1985 became the First Eldon Lundquist Faculty Fellow at IUSB. Harold retired in 1989 to devote himself fulltime to his art.

The 1990’s were a time for reexamining, reworking, refining and the evolution of Zisla’s mature style. The 2000’s have seen a continuing growth in his work which continues to this day.


After many years spent in accumulating a more or less advancing and expanding experience through rather restrained experimentation, I believe that images are now being released with a new desired authenticity and aesthetic weight appropriate to the process. This personally evolved method, or process, or technique could, perhaps should, be explained, may even be of interest to some; but technique, no matter how unusual and dramatic the "how," is only a means to continue the ongoingness, which for me, sums up the essence of all creative endeavors but does not exclude many other challenging concerns and considerations. Discovery through imagination for the artist is also a prerequisite for the seriously committed viewer. Congruence with a sympathetic, sophisticated viewer, even though I have found it, or sense it, to be rare, is a hoped for gift, making the doing well worth the travail.

l am satisfied that I have attained simplicity through complexity and the obverse. How much more does one need? Obviously complexity and simplicity are relative terms, and the true definition resides in, and is revealed in, the reality of the work itself, not in words. The best of explanations, of analysis by whomever is always ever incomplete, ever inconclusively tentative; and the artist in speaking of his or her work is, or should be, sorely pressed and cautious in order to prevent self-serving rationalization when seeking a
truly objective justification. But why should one have to justify? The work itself is justification enough. Even though I did it, there are others no doubt better qualified, able to effectuate a richer decipherment; and I accept their reactions as valid for them but in no way binding on me or as an impediment to my expanding the continuing experience of making images with all of the attendant ambiguities, frustrations, and infrequent moments of partially healing satisfaction.

Harold Zisla


1960 Culver Military Academy, Culver, Indiana
1965 Indiana University at South Bend, South Bend, Indiana
1968 South Bend Art Center, South Bend, Indiana
1969 Niles Art Center, Niles, Michigan
1970 South Bend YMCA, South Bend, Indiana
Gallery 100, Mishawaka, Indiana
1971 South Bend Art Center, South Bend, Indiana
1974 Hammes Gallery, St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana
1976 Gallery 100, Mishawaka, Indiana
1977 Indiana University at South Bend, South Bend, Indiana
1979 In Celebration, South Bend Art Center, South Bend, Indiana
1980 Retrospective Images: Icons and Indices, St. Anselm College, Manchester, New Hampshire
1981 Indiana University at South Bend, South Bend, Indiana
1982 Zisla, Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart, Indiana
1985 Accumulations: Harold Zisla Retrospective, South Bend Art Center, South Bend, Indiana
1991 Simplicity Complexity = Complexity Simplicity, IUSB, South Bend, Indiana
1996 Harold Zisla: Recent Paintings, South Bend Regional Museum Of Art
2005 Celebration: Harold Zisla, Blue Gallery, Three Oaks, Michigan
2008 Exit: Fertile Densities, IUSB, South Bend, Indiana
2009 Zisla: Paintings and Works on Paper, New Galleries, South Bend, Indiana


1948 The May Show, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
1959 Regional Art Exhibition, Kalamazoo Institute of Art, Kalamazoo, Michigan
1960 Indiana Art Exhibition, John Harron Art Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana
1967 Talbot Gallery, Indianapolis, Indiana
1969 London Graphica Gallery, Petoskey, Michigan
1976 St Joseph Art Association, St. Joseph, Michigan
1980 Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana
1987 Choices: Twenty Painters From The Midwest, Minneapolis College of Art and Design