Stage to Sculpture

UW-Stout show highlights a long career in the arts

Thom Fountain, photos by Timothy Mather

PUTTING UP WALLS. A sculpture hangs at the art opening for The Creative World of James R. Bakkom at UW-Stout’s Furlong Gallery.
PUTTING UP WALLS. A sculpture hangs at the art opening for The Creative World of
James R. Bakkom at UW-Stout’s Furlong Gallery.

James R. Bakkom has made a life in art. The Wisconsin native is a staple in the theatre community, working as a freelance set designer at handfuls of theatres, including Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Portland Stage Company, and the Minnesota Opera. He worked on over 500 television sets throughout the 1980s and 1990s and guest taught at over fifteen universities over his career. To put it simply, Bakkom has been around.

But the current show at UW-Stout’s Furlong Gallery focuses on a different kind of art of Bakkom’s. Throughout his long career, he has also kept up a studio of fine art, including painting and sculpture, a sampling of which is on display at the Furlong Gallery until March 27.

Bakkom’s fine art is broad and varied, ranging from colorful, wide-brushed landscape paintings to worn, 3-D houses that pop out from the walls at you.

Throughout his work, however, there is a recurring theme of the scarecrow. The scarecrow started as a drawing, but is now present through his sculptures as well.

The “Hessian Scarecrow” – which refers to certain groups of German soldiers fighting in the Revolutionary War – first manifests itself in a number of pencil drawings, each with its own DNA and its own character, though all based on the same idea. The sculptures are collections of bound sticks that protrude up into a human-esque form.

The varied creative outlets of Bakkom’s work were the subject of the documentary Getting Lost In My Own Art: The Creative World of James Bakkom, directed by the Minneapolis based documentarian Mark Wojahn. Wojahn screened the film at UW-Stout when the show opened on Feb. 28.

Learn more about James R. Bakkom at JamesRBakkom.com. View his show at UW-Stout’s Furlong Gallery, 178 Micheels Hall, Menomonie Mon.-Fri., 10am-6pm and Sat.-Sun., 12pm-4pm.

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