A native of Michigan, fine artist Wallace Wyss (rhymes with “reese”) traces his history with Corvettes almost to the dawn of time.
“My parents had a friend who raced a ’56,” he recalls. “One of the first Corvettes I ever saw other than seeing Duncan Rinaldo (The Cisco Kid) in a ’53.”
As a teenager Wyss cleaned swimming pools and one day noticed the Mako Shark Corvette in a customer’s driveway in Birmingham, MI. “Turned out the customer was Bill Mitchell, VP in charge of styling at GM. Later, after I got to know him, he invited me to take a ride in it on the ridiculously short test track at the Styling center.”
Fast forward to the mid-60s’, Wyss graduates in journalism from Wayne State but goes straight to the ad world where he ends up – you guessed it, writing Corvette ads, particularly for the ’69. “I also wrote for a magazine called Corvette News and went all over the country to Corvette events,” he recalls.
But then he moved to the West Coast. “I somehow got the idea that out there it was all foreign cars-Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis.”
So Wyss sold his yellow ’69 Corvette coupe and passed through the ownership of many foreign cars including a Mercedes gullwing, a Porsche 356, and the like. “I actually became a paid barn hunter, flying around looking for rare cars and getting a bounty per car bought,” he recalls. Among the cars were three Corvette powered Bizzarrinis.
He left advertising to write books. One, on Shelby, sold 50,000 copies. He also wrote three books on Corvettes and published one on his own on the ’84 model.
“I became an artist by accident. My degree is in journalism, but one day I painted a portrait of Carroll Shelby and took it along with me to the Rodeo Drive Concours so I could promote my latest Shelby book.”
But a funny thing happened. A man with a booth at the show bought the book, after Wyss showed him a picture of the portrait and the man said “Go get it, you sold that too.” In the long walk back to his car to get the original painting, Wyss realized he had better learn how to make prints so he wouldn’t have to sell the originals.
He describes his style as “photorealism on the car” but with muted backgrounds, sometimes almost lost in the fog. “I want you to get an idea of the setting but don’t want anything in the background distracting you from the car.”
Because California was so foreign-car heavy, Wyss became known for his exotic car paintings. Commissions for oil portraits came in various ways “In one case there was a story in the paper about a guy who spent a million-plus on a Corvette powered Italian race car, the Serenissima Torpedo. I made a painting of it on spec, sent it to the car’s owner and he commissioned two portraits.”
A SEA CHANGE WITH THE 2020
Now that the 2020 Corvette is out on the market Wyss waits eagerly for the impromptu cars ‘n coffee that takes place in Malibu Village (even during the pandemic). “I’m meeting owners of 2020s and I see when they roll in they’re immediately barraged with questions by those who’ve come there originally to see the Italian cars.” Wyss predicts there’s a change in the wind where more and more owners who’ve spent $7,000 for servicing a foreign car are thinking of changing over.
So, on spec, Wyss began doing Corvette art.
“I’m trying to capture the ambiance of arriving at a multi-marque car show in one,” he says. The first series he did showed a 2020 Corvette in Paris, and then another showed one in Italy. “I would love to be there to see the shock on the faces of Europeans when they see a car, think it’s a Ferrari or Lambo and come close and see it’s an American car.”
Wyss can be reached at [email protected].
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