RECIPIENTS OF THE 2006 WISCONSIN VISUAL ART LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS:
Warrington Colescott was an important figure, as teacher and artist, in the post World War II flowering of printmaking at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. He was one of the innovators in advancing technique and imagery in print culture that made Madison one of this country’s creative hotspots. His etchings continue to be recognized internationally for the satiric bite of his narrative subject matter which often comments on the state of the world as seen through his eyes. Narration is at the core of his art. The source of its journalistic aspect goes back to a childhood fascination with comic strips and to his college student involvement in political and sports cartoons.
Humor is the lubricant that smoothes the way for barbs aimed at humanity’s foibles and institutions’ cruelties. The pompous edifice of high culture, politics and current fashion threatens to totter and fall when Colescott puts his etching needle to the copper plate to render his quirky and beguiling images.
He taught printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1949 to 1986; he is the Leo Steppat Chair Professor of Art Emeritus, a Fellow of the Wisconsin Academy and an Academician of the National Academy of Design. His prints are held in most major public collections including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The Milwaukee Art Museum honored Colescott with a retrospective exhibition of his prints and paintings in 2005.
Schomer Lichtner (1905 - )
Schomer Lichtner has been a constant presence and influence in Wisconsin art since the 1920’s. He studied at the Milwaukee State Teacher’s College, the Milwaukee Art Student’s League, the Art Institute of Chicago, the New York Art Student’s League and University of Wisconsin, Madison. In the early 1960’s he taught at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. In the 1930’s, together with his wife, Ruth Grotenrath, he became involved in the Treasury Relief Art Project, the Public Works Art Project and the Federal Works Progress Administration art program. He was a muralist creating many serious large works in public and private buildings.
Schomer worked in his own regionalist style, dealing with the virtues of rural, middle class life, but was among the first generation of Wisconsin artists to break from the tradition of German academies. Schomer’s best known creations will always be recognized as part of the Modernist movement with imagery that includes elements of whimsy and humor, a sense of the potency of color, freedom and energy. Two of his trademark motifs, black and white patterned Holstein cows and slender ballet dancers, have been recurrent themes. His dogged production, longevity, and positive nature, have made him and his work distinctive and much loved.
Tom Lidtke (1950 - )
Tom has spent his entire adult life working in the visual art field. During that time, Tom has been museum director, curator, educator, author, lecturer, sculptor, and an arts activist who has championed the historical and contemporary visual art produced in the State of Wisconsin and by Wisconsin expatriots. His encouragement of, and dedication to, the art from this region has lifted the West Bend Art Museum into prominence as “The Museum for Wisconsin Art”. Working as Executive Director there since 1982, Tom dedicated these years to developing the goals and collections of that museum, striving unwaveringly to bring the wealth and quality of art produced in Wisconsin to the attention of regional and national audiences.
Tom has worked with other museums and professionals from around the United States and the world to raise regional art out of a perceived status of mere provincialism. He has striven to elevate the qualities and reputation of regional art to a deserved level of importance, unique and vital to our culture and heritage. He has served on numerous governing boards and as advisor to countless people and professional institutions. Tom developed the first accredited college class about the history of Wisconsin Art, and was a Co-Founder of the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Awards. He has touched many lives and served as role model and friend to many who have been involved in the goal of bettering our visual arts environment.
Louis Mayer (1869 – 1969)
Louis Mayer was the prototypical first generation, Wisconsin-born artist, and one who was an influence and who made a difference in the region. He began studies with Wisconsin immigrant artists, Richard Lorenz and Otto von Ernst, at the Wisconsin Art Institute. He continued studies in Germany at the Weimar Art School, the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, and Julian Academy in Paris.
In Milwaukee, Louis was to be one of the most influential artists in the community. He was perhaps the primary reason for the founding of the Society of Milwaukee Artists in the year 1900, which was to be renamed Wisconsin Painters & Sculptors in 1913. He was also a prime mover in the purchase of a building that was to become the Milwaukee Art Society’s gallery in the 400 block of Milwaukee’s Jefferson Street. He was a writer and art historian. His awards included a Silver Medal for oil paintings at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, though he was to become nationally known as a sculptor.
Louis traveled extensively and moved to New York in 1913, living in Fishkill, about fifty miles from New York City on an estate he named “Joyous Mountain”. His sculptural works include hundreds of busts and bas reliefs of historical figures, such as his friend Albert Schweitzer, which are scattered in public and private collections around the United States.
Tom Uttech (1942 - )
Words used to describe the paintings of Tom Uttech include spellbinding and mystical. While becoming nationally noted for his unique imagery of wild Northern forests and enigmatic wildlife, it was with the impressive exhibit of his work at the Milwaukee Art Museum titled “Magnetic North” in 2004 that his reputation as a master painter was forever solidified in his home state. Paintings in that exhibit arrived from public and private collections across the nation.
Tom was born in Northern Wisconsin, an environment that would eventually play a role in his mature work. He studied at the Layton School of Art and continued to seek his own meaningful expression during the Post Modernist climate of the 60’s and 70’s. While teaching at UW Milwaukee he was compelled to retreat from the atmosphere and pressures of the contemporary art culture and visited the natural setting of Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park. It was this reuniting with the qualities of the untamed and primeval that inspired him on the unique course which was to produce the great body of his work with its signature Aurora Borealis, gazing wildlife and mystical white stags. Tom’s deep understanding, respect and concern for Nature and the Wild, with our Human affect upon it all, are manifest in his paintings.
West Bend Art Museum (1961)
The West Bend Art Museum opened its doors to the public in 1961, with a mission of preserving and exhibiting the art of Wisconsin’s Carl Von Marr. It began under the Co-Directorship of its founders, Joan and Billa Pick. The first paid Executive Director, Edward Kocher, was followed in 1982 by Tom Lidtke, who still guides the museum today.
The collections and goals of the Museum expanded gradually since its inception, witnessed by increasing exhibits of historical and contemporary art, most of it by Wisconsin artists. Complementing the museum’s dedication to the work of Carl Von Marr, the recognition of the importance of other Wisconsin artists broadened the focus of the permanent collections and an archive of information about artists from Wisconsin was expanded to over 3,500. These files include information about the earliest itinerant artists moving thru the state to the Modernists of the mid 20th century.
The following summation of activities distinguishes the West Bend Art Museum from all others: (a) Exhibition and preservation of the Von Marr collection, (b) Collecting and exhibiting an expanding permanent collection of historical Wisconsin art, (c) Exhibition of significant art from outside Wisconsin, (d) Ongoing changing exhibitions of contemporary living Wisconsin artists, (e) Publication and dissemination of literature related to Wisconsin art, (f) Education and enrichment of the public to the value of all visual art in our society, (g) Participating in national exhibitions by loaning Wisconsin art to other institutions.
This museum is clearly the leader in the study of our regional art, and a treasure deserving of increasing recognition and influence.
John Wilde (1919 – 2006)
John Wilde’s career has spanned more than six decades. His first one person exhibition was in 1940 at the Zona Gale Museum in Portage, his most recent in February, 2006, at the Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee. More than 1200 paintings and drawings by Wilde are held in private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a Fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters as well as Emeritus Professor of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he taught drawing from 1952 through 1982.
John displayed early skills in draughtsmanship from boyhood. In high school he was motivated by visits to the studios of Santos Zingale, Alfred Sessler, and soon after studied with Milwaukee artist, Paul Clemens. Speaking of Wilde’s university days, fellow artist and close friend, Sylvia Fein, is quoted in the Chazen Museum’s 2005 exhibition catalogue for the exhibit titled, With Friends, as she spoke about John: “It was apparent from the beginning that something extraordinary was taking place. This just wasn’t talent and training. There was [something] supernatural happening, rare, exquisite, fierce, very consistent and stable and constantly generating and cranking out [work] with no apparent struggle or missteps.”
In Madison and Milwaukee in the 1940’s and 50’s he associated with a group of like minded artists thereby entering into a loose fellowship now dubbed “The Magic Realists”. He was arguably chief and unique among them in terms of accomplishment, style, reputation and influence. He is certainly one of the best known artists from Wisconsin in contemporary times.
Santos Zingale (1908 – 1999)
Santos studied at the Milwaukee State Teacher’s College, now known as University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, gaining his Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin Madison. He taughtin Madison for three decades, retiring in 1978. Santos was part of the Federal Government’s Arts and Design Projects, working during WWll as an artist in the U.S. Navy, where it is said he was one of the most active and productive artists from the Wisconsin group.
Earlier in his career he was a political activist, using his skills as artist to record social and political injustice, the affects of the Depression and the war with Hitler and Tojo. His subjects also included the disappearing architecture of cities he knew, an urban realism in paintings that were distinctive by his skillful use of color and contrasts of light and dark. His visits to Europe and the American Southwest also provided subjects for his work.
The Milwaukee Journal art critic, James Auer, had this to say in an article from December, 1999. “Zingale…a Milwaukee lad…made his mark as a social chronicler, political activist and mentor to countless University of Wisconsin – Madison art students…” And Gibson Byrd, Professor at UW Madison, said this in notes for a Zingale retrospective: “The paintings project an originality and integrity of vision that leaves the viewer richer for having experienced them.”
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