GRAVITY – Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago, August 18 – October 14, 2023

Drag Race, 2020
acrylic on canvas
76 x 110″


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 connection 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?


Click images to view portraits or landscapes

Rolling Storm Clouds, 2021

Rolling Storm Clouds, 2021
acrylic on paper on panel
22 x 30″


I. Forecasted High.
Wide-eyed dreamer amid fern green foliage, go wander in the verdant canvas of fall. Let leaves
brush beneath crooked stepping feet, like torn sheets of paper declared to the wind. Adorn
yourself in fiery hues of tall standing sentinels, ancient, twisted, and broken witnesses of summer
heat, do not your children’s calls ring with the echoes of centuries past? The scent of decaying
leaves, melancholy lingering on blunted pencil tips.

Render in paint a tapestry of russet and gold, with back bending birches bark, paper-thin, soft to
the touch. Sycamores shed mottled coats, while oaks, generous in their spring abundance, drop
acorns as offerings for the listless. See that pristine prairie water, serene reflecting like pure land
Buddha’s smile? It comes from the other side of the world, shrouded now in starlit sleeping Asia
darkness while we wake.

Distant trees are laughing, scratching out soothing tunes, ssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh, like lake
Michigan mystic ocean waves.

Go visit old friends hollowed out from struggling years, for whom poverty and love of beauty left
swaying eternally in the chilling breeze. Blackberry brambles, and a memory of thorny summer
sweet sadness past still live next door. The vibrant red of friendly sumac leaves stutter and shout
oh contrast! to the wearied October greens. A lone lily pad floats in tea-stained pond. Crown your
head with it and sit softly on moss marked rotting throne drinking in the setting sun’s farewell.
We wait for baker’s white blanket of soft snow, that mostly falls as rain. The boney fingered
branches now naked hold court reaching out, tickling venerable, vulnerable, steel-gray sky. But
it’s the clear clean blue that brings the cold. The new world holds its steaming breath, and
delicate frostwork bitterness weaves intricate lace pattern on the ground’s gloominess. This is the
endangered season species: two starving snowmen spotted in the wild! Next year there may be
only one, or none.

But rolling storm clouds still renew wildflower carpet forest floor. And won’t shy violets still peek
from beneath last November’s spoiled milk leaves? Where are you going in that concrete suit of
steel and tired armor? Come back to the last spot we past parted. Meet me in the emerald tick
thicket of February daffodils that still nourishes prophets and self-learned souls. We will be
reborn romantic lovers cast in a divine spell as extras in a Netflix nature series narrated by
Morgan Freeman. (Salma Hayek does the Spanish version.)

Finally, July is now brimming with the vibrant energy of summer and its heat. We’ve had no rain
for weeks. And in the Canada woodsmoke sky, a jet passes overhead.


Marcus, 2021

Marcus, 2021
acrylic on paper on panel, hand carved frame, MDF
21 x 13″


II. ATU Index Type 709.
Ground sand, found prism of existence, reflecting holy icon amalgamation of experience. And
emotion. They hang as a hand-carved tapestry of humanity. I insist that those reflected and
presented are not just faces, but images of the prototype in heaven.

Encounter a countenance of pure serenity. Glimpse a soul untethered from earthly worry. See
the etched lines of forgotten tribes and ancient rituals. Your fears and doubts, your joys and
sadness, Friday-drunk gladness, every wayward thought, success and regret turned back at you.
Don’t it make your brown eyes blue?

Red shirt, cigar, wire rim glasses. Bald. Brown. Black. Books in the background, lava lamp. Neil’s
cat has those pale bright eyes that reflect the light at night and would make me scared if I saw it.
Do you think that Stano is going to hell? Am I?

So I embrace you, faithful witness, and journey forth to self-awareness. On wisdom’s sacred pass
tread clumsily a path to fathom strange depths and heights of pale moon discovery. Delight in the
styled smiles, scrutinize the serious and insincere, there is no authentic so there can be no fake.
Free yourself from that long-carried curse and lay you down those sun-bleached burdens. We
each share the silent fear that all of this is really happening.


– Alan Pocaro