Over the last decade, Tom Uttech has emerged as one of the most widely admired landscape painters in America. His enigmatic views, based on the verdant northern woods of the Precambrian Shield, have few parallels in contemporary art.
After finishing a degree at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Uttech went to graduate school at the University of Cincinnati. He taught for a year at the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock, and then a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee allowed him to return home. He was a professor of art at the University from 1968 until his resignation in 1998.
Since the 1960’s Uttech has made numerous camping and canoeing trips in the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, and northern Minnesota. One aspect that distinguishes Uttech’s paintings from most contemporary landscapes is that he does no drawings, studies, or photographs on these treks. They are studio inventions based entirely on memory and improvisation.
Over the years Uttech became increasingly dismayed with the inappropriate frames put on his canvases. Remembering the beautiful hand-painted molding of Gallen-Kallela’s Waterfall at Mantykoski, which he had seen in the Northern Light exhibition organized by the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1982, as well as colorful Scandinavian chests and furniture and his affection for the Pennsylvania Dutch art of Rosemaling, Uttech began making and painting his frames. These wide, flat pine moldings are finished with stains that range from clear to dark earth tones and are decorated with an assortment of wildlife, foliage, pictographs, and mythological creatures.
As Tom Uttech has stated, “The best response to my paintings would be for you to march right out of the gallery and go straight to the wildest piece of land you can find and sit down and let it wash over you and tell you secrets.”
Taken from a text by John Arthur. Published in, Tom Uttech: Mystical Landscapes, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum.