For one magical evening, the McPherson Opera House was draped in elegance for a Night of Black and White fund-raiser

For one magical evening, the McPherson Opera House was draped in elegance for a Night of Black and White fund-raiser
The evening, cosponsored by the Opera House and the Visual Arts Alliance of McPherson, began with a reception in the VAAM gallery for artist Philomene Bennett, whose art has been on display at the gallery since Nov. 1.
Bennett has been an artist for more than 40 years and had her art featured in museums, including the Albrecht-Kemper Museum in Kansas City, the Women’s Museum of Art in Washington, D.C., Suzanne Brown Gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz. and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
Bennett was born in Lincoln, Neb., in 1935. She received her BFA in 1956 in Lincoln.
During her early career, she was shown a book containing the work of Picasso, and she said it became a significant influence on her work.
“It gave me a huge freedom,” she said. “I didn’t have to be what I thought I should be, but I learned you could really ride your own experience and voice and be your own person.”
Bennett has worked in various media, including paints, ceramics and printmaking.
Among the art that has been on display at the VAAM gallery in November are some of Bennett’s earlier acrylics abstract works and more contemporary oil paintings.
Her newest works she calls her table top portraits. Many of the pieces use a bright color pallet drawn from Czechoslovakian pottery and quilts that inspire the works. In addition to the portraits, she has done a series of oil paintings she calls the rose trophies. She said she was inspired to paint these pieces after reading a book about an athlete.
“Everyone needs a trophy,” she said.
The pieces that portray the Czech glass and quilts come from Bennett’s observations, but the exhibit also includes more subdued pieces like “Two 2,” whose images are drawn from her imagination.
“I have to work where I am,” Bennett said. “I can see a piece I did 20 years ago and love it. I can think that really works well, but I have to work where I am and work on it until I have it right.”
Bennett has had more than 200 solos exhibits, but she said she thought her artwork was well displayed in the VAAM gallery.
Bennett said she wants people to look at her art with open minds.
“I don’t want people to be critics, but just share in the experience,” she said. “I think that is what we should do with everything.”
Bennett’s art will be on display at the VAAM gallery until Nov. 30.
The champagne reception for Bennett was followed by a three-course meal catered by Amics. The tables sported elaborate black and white decor designed by local volunteers. The table designers were as follows: Bev Scharf, Bev Hunter, Angie Gaeddart and Balloon Landing, Joan Reichenberger and Janette Hess, Michelle Logback and Laura Bruce, Carla Barber, Lynne Lichty, Jonna Garretson and Cook's Nook and, Karlene Tyler and Jill Brax.
In addition, local photographer Jim Turner took black and white photos of participants at the event.
The evening concluded with concert performed by singer Marilyn Maye.