Tom Torluemke: Gravity

Opening: Saturday, Aug 19, 2023 12 – 4 pm
Saturday, Aug 19 – Oct 22, 2023

2320 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art is thrilled to announce our next exhibition: Gravity, featuring paintings of landscapes and portraits by Tom Torluemke. He began this body of work in 2021 when he pursued landscapes as a focused theme, approaching it with more seriousness as our environment becomes more impacted by climate change year after year. To get some relief from the environment as subject matter and the isolation of the pandemic, Torluemke also began a series of portraits of friends and family, which revealed a connected between the two bodies of work: as the natural environment and social and civic unrest become more contentious, how can people help each other and the environment?

The landscape paintings encompass all four seasons, featuring scenes from Torluemke’s own home where he draws the landscapes on-site. He then brings the drawings back to his studio where he uses his memory and imagination to convey the color and mood through paint. This exercise forces Torluemke to be aware of his surroundings and to capture posterity’s modern landscapes as impending climate change looms ahead.

Similarly, through his portrait series, Torluemke captured the feeling of spending time with family and friends despite the isolation of the pandemic. During this time when he could not be with his subjects as he painted, he invited them to send a “selfie” image of themselves along with a picture of their favorite place in or around their home. Torluemke then painted a portrait of each person with an urgency and emotion to lovingly capture their likeness, using the photos they sent as a guide. This love and care is emphasized by the hand-carved and painted frames made to fit each subject’s personality as well as the unique shape of their portrait. The frames are made to resemble larger than life hand mirrors, implying reflection.

The conversations between the portraits and landscapes are layered and nuanced as the subjects of the portraits are rendered in places where they are comfortable and the flora and fauna in the landscapes are struggling to survive in their own natural environment. The gallery installation emphasizes this dichotomy with the portraits hung on one wall and the landscapes on the opposite. Visitors will be given hand mirrors to experience feelings of reflection, seeing their own face with the painted landscapes or portraits behind them. This concept takes the portrait and landscape from their traditional roles and turns them into an interactive experience, invoking an empathetic and intellectual response and discourse about social and environmental issues.


About Tom Torluemke:

Tom Torluemke (he/him) is an Indiana-based, contemporary American artist. He is known for his powerful, no-holds-barred approach to subject matter relating to socio-political, ethical, and humanistic themes. His practice spans forty years and includes painting, drawing, sculpture, and installations.

Solo and group exhibition highlights include “Fearsome Fable – Tolerable Truth” at the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; “After Glow” at The Chicago Cultural Center; “The Inland See: Contemporary Art Around Lake Michigan,” curated by James Yood; “Critic’s Choice” at Jan Cicero Gallery in Chicago; “In the Company of Strangers” at the Brauer Museum of Art, Valparaiso, Indiana; “Bounce” at the South Bend Regional Museum of Art in South Bend, Indiana; “Peace in the Arts” at the Baíhai International Peace Conference in San Francisco; “The Alabama Watercolor Society Exhibition” at the Birmingham Museum of Art; and the “In Indiana” series at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Torluemke was a featured speaker at TEDxPurdueU at Purdue University, a winner of the Great Ideas Competition of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, and a recipient of the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship, awarded by the Central Indiana Community Foundation.

Torluemke’s more than thirty public art commissions throughout the Midwest serve as a testament to the relevance and scope of his ideas and his ability to present them in a meaningful context within their communities.