The Nelson Institute is thrilled to announce its newest faculty member: Tim Portlock, who will join the UW–Madison community in the Fall 2023 semester. Portlock comes to the UW from Washington University in Saint Louis’s Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, where he has served as the chair of and a professor in the undergraduate art program. He has previously taught at Hunter College SUNY and l’Université Paris-Sorbonne and has shown his award-winning work in galleries both nationally and internationally.
A joint hire between the Nelson Institute and the School of Education’s Art Department, Portlock will open new doors between environmental scholarship and creative arts. “Tim Portlock’s arrival is a huge opportunity for campus,” says Nelson Institute Dean Paul Robbins. “We need a vision for the planet, both as it is now and in a range of Earth Futures. Portlock’s visionary graphic art provides that.”
Inspired by his home in Philadelphia, his current work simulates both real and imagined spaces using 3D gaming technology. His most recent solo exhibition, “Nickels from Heaven,” showed at Philadelphia’s Locks Gallery in 2021. Using both 3D animation software and drone footage of actual places, Portlock creates sublime compositions that both draw you in and push you away: juxtapositions of glass skyscrapers with rooftop gardens next to dilapidated, graffiti-covered brick buildings; futurist statues awash in the warmth of a sunset positioned behind a scene of shadowy demolition. “The work is not science fiction or futuristic,” Portlock told St. Louis Public Radio of the exhibit. “It’s actually describing what’s happening now.”
Portlock will be based in Science Hall, the Nelson Institute’s home. “We are bringing a visionary artist to Science Hall who can graphically explore global environmental challenges and work with our interdisciplinary scholars and students to provide a fresh view into environmental research,” Robbins adds. “Tim is a one-of-a-kind resource. We are enormously excited to welcome our newest Nelson scholar.”