Outside the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center, the wind snakes through the tall prairie grasses, drying slowly in the crisp September air. The walking paths through the woods are turning orange with fallen leaves, and the resident sandhill cranes, a fixture of summer at Promega Madison, will soon be heading to their winter home in southern Florida.
Inside the BTC, the Promega Fall Art Showcase is honoring the life of Truman Lowe, an acclaimed Ho-Chunk artist whose sculptural works evoke a powerful connection with nature. For decades, Lowe was a professor in the Department of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he was an exceptional mentor to young artists. He was known for encouraging artists to fearlessly delve into their artistic voice and equipping them with the necessary tools to navigate the art world. The Fall Art Showcase honors his legacy by exhibiting his art alongside pieces by several former students.
Truman Lowe: Visionary Artist, Mentor and Teacher
Truman Lowe was born on the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin reservation in 1944. He recounted a childhood of drawing with rocks on the Black River and creating crafts like baskets and beadwork with his parents. Though he loved art from an early age, Lowe says that he never thought of art as a profession until he was studying for his undergraduate art degree at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. There, he became fascinated with Michelangelo, who inspired him to realize that art could be “a profession as well as a passion.”1
After earning a graduate degree and moving through several teaching positions at the high school and university level, Lowe accepted a position as Native American studies coordinator and assistant professor of art at UW-Madison in 1975. This began a 45-year tenure in the department of art, where he fostered a deep understanding and appreciation for Native American art and culture among his students. He also served as a curator of contemporary art at the National Museum of the American Indian.
Lowe is known for large, site-specific installations that use natural materials including wood, stone and metal. His works push creative boundaries and exhibit a unique blend of versatility, precision and emotional depth. Lowe’s sculptures have been exhibited around the world, from museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art to embassies in Bolivia and Cameroon. A sculpture titled Effigy: Bird Form was displayed on the White House grounds during the Clinton administration and was recently reinstalled atop Observatory Hill at UW-Madison, close to the former site of Native American effigy mounds.
Lowe, who died in 2019, was a beloved mentor to many students over his long tenure at UW-Madison. A university-published obituary quotes John Hitchcock, professor and Associate Dean at UW-Madison, saying, “Truman encouraged us to stay strong as artists and to our vision as makers.” The widespread love of Lowe will be on display at the Promega Fall Art Showcase, where six of his former students will be exhibiting alongside Lowe’s own works.
Promega Fall Art Showcase
The Fall Art Showcase opened on September 19 with a symposium featuring guest speakers Patricia marroquin Norby and Jo Ortel. Norby is the Associate Curator of Native American Art at the metropolitan Museum of Art, and the first person of Indigenous descent hired for a full-time curatorial position in the museum’s 150-year history. Jo Ortel is an author, art historian and Professor Emerita of Art History of Beloit College. Ortel is also the author of a notable biography of Truman Lowe titled “Woodland Reflections: The Art of Truman Lowe.”
The Promega Culinary Team collaborated with Chef Elena Terry of the culinary organization Wild Bearies to offer traditional Ho-Chunk food at the reception. Chef Terry provided recipes and connected the team with indigenous purveyors to source ingredients. Promega also collaborated with Little Eagle Arts Foundation to include pieces of Ho-Chunk culture into the event.
The Fall Art Showcase runs through December 29 and is open to the public Monday through Friday 8:00 am – 4:00 pm at the Promega BioPharmaceutical Technology Center. For more information, visit https://www.promega-artshow.com/
1As quoted in Woodland Reflections: The Art of Truman Lowe by Jo Ortel
Read more about Promega Art Showcases:
- Creativity in Action: The Promega Employee Art Show
- A Vibrant Welcome Back to the Promega Art Showcase