Side Image: 

Image credit: Tom Uttech (American, b. 1942). Nind Andaki from Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Portfolio, 2001, etching, 22 x 30 inches. Gift of Thomas Victor Jackson and family.

About the Artist
Tom Uttech

Originally from Wausau, Wisconsin, Tom Uttech lives in Saukville, near Milwaukee. By fourth grade he had decided to become an artist and he earned a Bachelor of Art degree from the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati. He taught painting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for thirty years. Early in his teaching career he stopped painting because expectations communicated by colleagues and critics about contemporary art styles challenged his personal approach to art. Once he began making canoeing and camping trips to the boundary waters of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario in the 1960s, he felt he had found his spiritual home and settled on his landscape painting style. He has said, "I kept seeing things in the landscape that would create a very strong feeling, like an aching, a yearning or longing for something, but I didn’t know what. But what I think I'm yearning for is to be the thing, to stop being myself in this body and stop being aware of my life and just be that thing...the tree, the landscape, all of it."

Key Ideas
  • Visual art as a means to communicate the beauty and vulnerability of the natural world and to encourage stewardship
  • Landscape art as expression of emotion and inspiration for spiritual contemplation
  • Animal and landscape imagery as self-portraits of the artist 
Discussion Questions
  • What signs do you see that suggest the season depicted here?...the time of day? How might the animals in the frame hint at the season?
  • What do you notice about light in this image, including the source of the light, the effects of light on the trees, the shoreline, and the vegetation? What do you notice about ways the artist employed light to guide your eyes into the scene?
  • What possible relationships among the animals can you describe? In what ways do they appear safe or endangered?
  • What have you heard about whooping cranes in Wisconsin? In what ways has the artist expressed something about their history in this painting?
  • The artist has said, "When you get into a detailed study of what's in the world, it’s magic beyond belief. If landscape is the context to help us connect ourselves to a spiritual realm, it is the details that are convincing." What seem to be the artist’s feelings about this place he has depicted? Do you think it is a real place or an invented one? Why? Are the details in Nind Andaki convincing? Why or why not?
  • If you could climb inside this picture, where would you choose to be? For example, would you choose to be in a tree, on a rock, in the water? Would you choose to remain human or would you become another animal?
  • How might you describe the mood in this image? For example, what might give the impression of harmony, tension, potential violence, or even the effects of chaos? What music might accompany these emotional effects?
  • Nind Andaki is an Ojibwe phrase that may be translated as "I go to live in another country or place, or I move to another country or place." In what ways do you think this title is expressed in the image?
  • What are your thoughts about how artists help us think about interactions in the natural world that we may not be able to see?
Vocabulary
  • metaphor a figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison
  • primeval of or resembling the earliest ages in the history of the world
  • print an original work of art (as a woodcut, etching, or lithograph) intended for graphic reproduction and produced by or under the supervision of the artist who designed it
  • Rosemaling a Scandinavian style of carved or painted decoration (as on furniture or walls or dinnerware) consisting of floral motifs

When and Where Is It? Time and Place in Art

Angled light illuminates a thrilling view of wild animals and wetlands in the American North. Wolves howl, raptors carry nesting sticks, and moose lift their heads to look and listen as a flock of whooping cranes soars overhead. The shoreline in the distance is lined with conifers; trees in the forefront are old and spindly and cling to the edge of a steep bank overhanging a large lake filled with marshland grasses, possibly reeds, cattails, and wild rice. The light brightens the scene with blue, orange, yellow, green, and red highlights. Everything seems at once both still and in transition—a serene scene of tranquility and movement, primeval equilibrium and seasonal change, inviting contemplation. Time of year, time of day, motivation for the animals’ movements, and effects of prior natural events—all are questions that provoke a quest for answers and metaphors for human existence.

Tom Uttech has said, "When I enter the north woods of Wisconsin, I try not to be present as a person. I try not to be conscious of myself, but rather just absorb and observe, to be a pair of eyes in the woods instead of a body...Since [my] pictures are about nature and our role in it, the knowledge gained might grow into love of nature, and thus into concern for its well-being. 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." Uttech hopes that his images will encourage people to become knowledgeable about the environment and take action to sustain it.

Uttech does not make drawings or studies while he is in the woods and wetlands, but paints from memory and imagination when he returns to his studio. He uses small brushes to layer transparent glazes on his paintings, which take as much as a year to complete. Nind Andaki is an original print. It was made with layers of ink applied to a printing plate to produce the same high-color, ethereal effects that Uttech achieves in his oil paintings.He makes and paints his own frames, for which he was influenced by traditions of Scandinavian furniture-making and Rosemaling. His pine moldings are finished with earth-toned stains and decorated with foliage or wildlife, like the lizards that he included in the etched "frame" in this print. Uttech likes to title his images with words from the Ojibwe, or Chippewa, language. Nind Andaki is an Ojibwe phrase that may be translated as "I go to live in another country or place, or I move to another country or place."