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New exhibition celebrates the magical and weird Wisconsin wilderness

Press Release October 18, 2022

New exhibition celebrates the magical and weird Wisconsin wilderness

Magic Wilderness opens October 22, 2022 at the Museum of Wisconsin Art


(WEST BEND, WISCONSIN—October 18, 2022) –The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) 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. A robust schedule of programming accompanies the exhibition and is listed below.

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.

This exhibition is supported by 2022 exhibition sponsors James and Karen Hyde, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Pick Heaters Inc., RDK Foundation, Thomas J. Rolfs Family Foundation, and a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board.

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.



Exhibition Opening Party
Saturday, October 22 | 2:00–4:00

Celebrate the opening and meet the artists of the exhibition. Enjoy light bites, a cash bar, and live music by Microcosm.


Talk: Fantastic Fungi
Saturday, November 19 | 2:00–3:00

Glen Stanosz, University of Wisconsin–Madison Professor of Tree and Forest Health will talk about the diverse and highly evolved organisms that are critical to the function of forest ecosystems.


Talk: Aldo Leopold—Natural Soundscapes and Spirit of Place
Saturday, December 17 | 2:00–3:00

University of Wisconsin –Madison retired professor Stan Temple will explore Aldo Leopold’s
fascination with natural sounds, introduce the new field of soundscape ecology, and share his detailed recreation of the dawn chorus of birds that Leopold meticulously documented at his beloved shack in 1940.


Talk: Wisconsin’s Magic Realism
Saturday, January 14, 2023 | 2:00–3:00

Curator of Paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Robert Cozzolino, PhD discusses canonical Wisconsin Magic Realism painters such as Tom Uttech, John Colt, and Theodore Czebotar, and how their careers may have intertwined.



Image credit: Barbara Manger, Into the Tangle, 1998