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'Into The Woods': Wisconsin Artist Tom Uttech's Career Retrospective

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Tom Uttech
/
Museum of Wisconsin Art
"Nin Gassinsibingwe 2019"

Tom Uttech is one of Wisconsin’s great artists. The Saukville resident is also considered one of the leading landscape painters in the United States. His work has been described as Magic Realism, where a world of real and imaginary flora and fauna exist in a fantastical universe. But the places he paints are also very much grounded in the woods of Wisconsin, Northern Minnesota, and Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada.

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Credit Tom Uttech / Museum of Wisconsin Art
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Museum of Wisconsin Art
"Untitled"

Uttech’s work is the subject of a career retrospective, called Into The Woods, that’s on view at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend through Jan. 12. The works displayed are paintings and photographs, including his newest painting, Nin Gassinsibingwe, which the museum commissioned for this show.

Uttech says that over the six decades he's been working, he's learned that all art speaks to everyone — it just says different things to different people.

"Sometimes it’ll say things that are life-changing and sometimes it’ll says things that will only reinforce what you already think. But it’s definitely going to say something," he says.

And what keeps Uttech going, despite some health concerns? The work. Always the work.

"Right now, the stuff I'm thinking aobut doing hasn't been one, single, spectacular, simultaneously thought idea," he says. " It's just stuff that rumbles around in the background while I'm doing something else. And all of a sudden you realize, oh, I've got something going here. And when it comes time to take that piece of charcoal and go to the blank canvas, you know where you're going."

Uttech thinks for a minute, and then looks at me intently.

"You have to continue working. No matter what. All the time."

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Credit Tom Uttech / Museum of Wisconsin Art
/
Museum of Wisconsin Art
"Makwa Nindowweawin 1992"

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.