Historic mural not seen in decades returns to view at Museum of Wisconsin Art

The Museum of Wisconsin Art presents “Magic Wilderness: Dreamscapes of the Forest” featuring sixteen artists who celebrate the Wisconsin wilderness in all its rebellious, bewitching glory. The exhibition will be on view October 22, 2022–January 15, 2023. An opening reception with the exhibiting artists will be held on Saturday, October 22, 2:00–4:00.

Installed as an imagined ecosystem, the exhibition pays homage to the opposites that co-exist in nature. The lyrical and the weird, the magical and the mathematical, as well as the micro and the macro are in evidence across paintings, sculptures, photographs, and mixed media.

Highlights include an extraordinary, immense mural by longtime University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee professor John Colt. The 22 ½ x 8 ½ ft. canvas was commissioned in 1958 to honor Rev. John J. Walsh, who put Marquette University’s theater program on the map. Not seen by the public in decades, Colt’s mural is an evocative composition of variations on themes drawn from natural forms. The leaf of the wild mandrake is a recurring motif, rendered in Colt’s mid-century palette of ethereal orange, green, yellow, and black. In 2021, the Kohler Foundation and Colt’s widow, Ruth Kjaer, gifted the painting to the Museum of Wisconsin Art where it is now part of the permanent collection.

Several works by celebrated painter Tom Uttech are also featured, including the surreal diptych included in the 1975 Whitney Biennial, which emphatically announced Uttech’s arrival on the national stage. Also on view is Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, a spectral scene depicting the encounter of a woman-deer hybrid and a musk ox, a woolly breed native to the arctic tundra.

Additional works by Jacob Bautista, Theodore Czebotar, Kyoung Ae Cho, Maureen Fritchen, Kevin Giese, Mary Hood, Andrew Khitsun, Gloriann Langva, Barbara Manger, Shane McAdams, Cassandra Smith, Fred Stonehouse, Brooke Thiele, and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein create an immersive forest setting worthy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

The Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30–4:00.

Admission as low as $15 provides unlimited visits for one full year.

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