For the next month and a half, Swarthmore College will be taken over by the nature-loving imagination of Tom Uttech, who is exhibiting concurrently in the List Gallery and in the atrium of McCabe Library. The former show is titled “Adisokewini” and features his recent oil paintings, and the McCabe show exhibits some of Uttech’s photographic work. “Adisokewini” runs from November 1 to December 16, as does his photographic exhibit, and the lively opening on the 1 was preceded by a truly fascinating and humorous talk given by the artist himself in the Lang Performing Arts Center’s Cinema wherein he discussed his background and the ideas behind some of his works, accompanied by truly radiant, glittering slides of his paintings.
Tom Uttech, when speaking, warned the audience that he tends to ramble, yet he was a joy to listen to. He was refreshingly plain and human when speaking about his work. He is a rare breed: the humble intellectual. He didn’t try to insist upon some grand deep meaning behind his work, and throughout the talk, he wryly insisted that he was not an artist. Throughout his career, he reminded the audience, he did not consider himself an artist, since he did not subscribe to the popular artistic movements of the time. Thus, if he wanted to paint nature at a time when the art world was simply gaga for conceptual art, so be it. Mr. Uttech seemed almost amused when several audience members asked him if there was some deeper meaning behind the almost ubiquitous bear who often features in his nature scenes. They wondered: was he the bear? Mr. Uttech demurred, saying that if the viewer wanted him to be the bear, then he was the bear. Later in the talk, though, Mr. Uttech demonstrated his own profound self-insights. He asked to bear with him (no pun intended) as he thought aloud about the intellectual side of his works, and then self-deprecatingly called his own self-analysis “bullshit”, much to the protestations of the audience. Mr. Uttech, evidently, does not want to be put into some high art intellectual box. He has extremely perceptive insight into his own work, but is grounded and wonderfully down-to-earth about his own abilities and his themes of choice.
His photographic exhibit, located in McCabe, features black-and-white nature shots that are a joy to behold. His love for the outdoors is apparent in the skill and detail with which he addresses his subject. They are a truly lovely addition to the library and provide an interesting visual complement to all the books and gray stone of McCabe.
Each of Mr. Uttech’s paintings is a little world. His painting exhibit, located in the List Gallery, features oil paintings of various size and scale that are notable for their use of color as well as each work’s carefully chosen unique frame. His works also reveal themselves to be a veritable menagerie, populated not only by trees and plants and other flora but by birds of all species (all accurate for the location, of course), and squirrels, raccoons, and of course, the bear. The paintings seem naturalistic and realistic from a distance, but when upon closer inspection, the chaos and spontaneity of his works are apparent. These works range from vigorous and energetic to more calm and meditative, and are suffused with Mr. Uttech’s love of his subject.
Overall both exhibits are excellent and complement one another well. My one quibble with the exhibits is with the lighting of the painting exhibit. During the artist’s presentation, I was completely blown away with the luminosity of the works he displayed on the screen. The paintings seemed to glimmer and glow from within, like stained glass. Shortly after, when I went to see the works in person in the gallery, they seemed flatter under the brighter lights in the room, their limpid colors dried out slightly. Perhaps an overall dimmer lighting with more direct lighting on the works themselves might have allowed the overall exhibit to maintain the wonder I felt looking at Mr. Uttech’s works during the presentation. This issue seems more related to the venue itself than to the actual quality of works. However, people who see the exhibit with fresh eyes will probably have a different experience than those people who first saw the works as slides in the darkened LPAC cinema.
Overall, the two exhibits should not be missed. Those art lovers in the area should take the trip down to LPAC and to McCabe Library to see “Adisokewini” and the photography show.