New Exhibit Opening May 1 at Figge Showcases the Glories of Nature
During an era of social distancing, Quad Citizens have gotten outside to explore the region’s parks, hiking trails, and riverfronts — perhaps more than ever before. Now, the community can see the natural world through the painting and photography of Tom Uttech in the new
exhibition “Origin,” opening at the Figge Art Museum Saturday, May 1.
“It’s like we are bringing the outdoors in,” said Michelle Hargrave, executive director and CEO of the Figge. “Visitors are going to be immersed in Tom’s love for nature — in his appreciation for both the small wonders of the world, and the grandiose. We’re thrilled to pair one of Tom’s pieces from our permanent collection with the exquisite photographs from the Museum of Wisconsin Art’s permanent collection.”
Tom Uttech: Origin features Kisibakwad, a painting that is part of the Figge’s permanent collection, alongside a selection of his large-scale black and white photographs that have not been seen before in the Quad-Cities. The exhibition focuses on the artist’s enduring relationship with the north woods spanning the upper Midwest and Quetico Provincial Park in Canada.
According to the Museum of Wisconsin Art, Uttech is “recognized as one of the leading landscape painters working today in the United States. Often categorized as a Magic Realist, his paintings weave together a mystical world of both imagined and real elements.”
A Wisconsin native, Uttech describes the north woods region as “a land of glacial lakes, boreal plants and animals, and few human inhabitants. When I am there, I feel at home, complete, and invisible.”
“Through his artwork, Uttech offers viewers new ways to experience and appreciate the world around us,” said Figge assistant curator Vanessa Sage. “We are fortunate to be able to share his work with the community, and we hope that the exhibition will inspire visitors to
connect with nature this summer.”
From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, Uttech shot more than 1,000 rolls of film in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada — the subject of many of the photos in Origin. Serene and yet abounding with life, the imagery features trailing vines, heavily forested glens, and dense undergrowth, according to a Figge release.
While Uttech is an accomplished photographer, he is best known for his landscape paintings. Based on his memories and forged from his imagination, these works have a magical dream-like quality, the museum says.
“Kisibakwad is a stunning example of his work wherein dozens of delicately painted birds fly among towering pine trees, and bears and bobcats gaze at us from their home in the woods,” the Figge release said. “Together, these works highlight Uttech’s artistic relationship to the north
woods while calling attention to our primal connection to nature.”
Born in northern Wisconsin, Uttech has had a strong connection with nature throughout his life — as an avid bird watcher, a conservationist, a hiker, and as a painter and photographer.
He was a longtime professor of art at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee prior to his retirement in 1998, has had his work exhibited across the country, and is represented in collections of the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Philbrook Museum of Art, and the Figge Art Museum, among many others.
Tom Uttech: Origin is sponsored by GoGo Enterprises, LLC, and will be on view through Aug. 15, 2021. On Thursday, July 1 at 6:30 p.m., you can join Uttech on Zoom as he discusses his working process.
For two more weeks only, admission to the Figge gets visitors entrance into both Origin, and the current blockbuster traveling exhibition, For America: 200 Years of Painting from the National Academy of Design, on view through May 16 only.
The Figge (225 W. 2nd St., Davenport) continues to have mask requirements in place for the health and safety of all visitors. Capacity limits in each of the galleries mean there’s no better time to visit the Figge than right now. Tickets are available at the museum entrance or online in advance, at www.figgeartmuseum.org.