Tom Uttech (American, b. 1942) paints imaginary woodland scenes that celebrate the verdant natural world he has been closely acquainted with since his childhood in Merrill, Wisconsin. His paintings are based on the woods of the Precambrian Shield, a stretch of land across the northern United States and South-Eastern Canada, where the ancient igneous rock that forms the core of the continent is exposed, and miles of lakes, woodland, and wildlife lie untouched by human influence. Uttech’s appreciation for this land is clear in his devotion to recreating what it feels like to be in those woods, particularly at dawn and dusk, when the mystical powers of the forest and its wildlife are most evident. The effect of these effervescent, detailed paintings are like that of illuminated manuscripts. They appeal to the viewer in a nostalgic, and almost reverential way—there is a familiarity, but there is also, in the abundant presence of the wildlife and the glow of the horizon, a hint of something we cannot comprehend. This sense of mystery is referenced in Uttech’s titles of the paintings—words he finds in an ancient lexicon of the Chippewa language.
After completing his studies at Layton School of Art and the University of Cincinnati, Uttech was a professor of art at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, until 1998. Since the inclusion of his paintings in the 1975 Whitney Biennial, Uttech’s work has been the subject of over thirty-five one-person exhibitions. He continues to live and paint in Wisconsin.