Acorns & Trees - The Art of Fathers & Sons

Acorns & Trees

The Art of Fathers & Sons
November 16 – December 10, 2017
Curated by James Toth

“The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
“Like father like son.”

Often these aphorisms are used in disparaging ways to point out generational misbehaviors or misdeeds. But, more often they describe just the opposite and are used as complements to recognize the values and talents shared and passed along by example and through love. Acorns and Trees celebrates a paternal legacy of creativity by featuring a number of pairs of father/son artists. One of these pairs is that of the late Willis (Wis) Guthrie and his son Gerald (Gerry) Guthrie.

Wis was an art professor and head of the art department for over 35 years at Carroll College (now Carroll University). In addition to being a beloved and inspiring father and teacher, he was a prolific artist known for his imaginative assemblages. Gerry followed in his father’s footsteps to become a professor in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana for 28 years where he taught animation and foundational studies. His own digital animations have screened and won awards in over one hundred national and international film festivals. The new lobbly installation, “Acorns and Trees” will show not only art work done by each Guthrie, but also a collaborative piece that they completed in 2005, when Wis was 87! (He died in 2016 at age 98.)

The Guthries will be joined by other father/son artists for what will be a unique exhibition of the creative spirit.



Willis (Wis) Guthrie (1918 – 2016)

Wis was an artist, and had a career that spanned decades including a position at Carroll University as art professor and head of the Art Department. He was known for his assemblages that made imaginative use of an eclectic array of objects and that reflected aboriginal and African influences. For over 35 years he encouraged and inspired thousands of students to see the world with an artist's eye. Wis continued to create art well into his 90s, shifting his focus to collage and creative alterations of old text and picture books and magazines. His death in 2016 marked the passing of the last surviving student of Grant Wood, the great American painter.

Gerald Guthrie

Gerald, Wis' son, also became an artist and art professor. He taught animation and foundation studies in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign for 28 years. His own digital animations have screened and won awards in over one hundred national and international film festivals. Of his work, Gerald says... “I ask the viewer to ponder such issues as the presence of absurdity in belief and ritual. It is my intention to elicit contemplation about the many important, yet enigmatic issues associated with every-day life by creating images with unusual metaphoric twists played against familiar, even comfortable backgrounds. Though there is also an element of humor in the work, it is the humor of nervous laughter, intriguing yet slightly discomforting.” Website


Joel Pfeiffer

Joel is a ceramic, glass and stainless steel artist who also taught for 26 years at Arrowhead High School in Hartland, Wisconsin. He is internationally known for his clay-stomp mural projects, including the American/Soviet Project featuring the Russian mural installed at General Mitchell International Airport. His recent work of fused glass/steel totems, “Walk of Wonder,” was shown downtown this summer in conjunction with “Sculpture Milwaukee.”  Joel: “One of my favorite sayings is, 'If you're not on the edge, then you're taking up too much room.' It is within this idea of being 'on the edge' that fuels my passion for my art.”


Jacob Pfeiffer

Jacob, son of Joel, is a young artist who's incredibly realistic paintings have found a wide array of admiring collectors including George Lucas who owns the original “Luke's Lesson” featured here as a giclee print on canvas. Jacob: “When you look at the state of the world it is hard not to notice how out of balance everything seems. Clearly the world needs more beauty and humor. I enjoy painting quirky and unexpected subjects in a highly refined and realistic manner. This creates a tension between the whimsical subject and the 'serious' execution of the painting. I enjoy creating pieces that are so vivid and realistic that they fool the viewer's eye; i.e. trompe l'oeil.”


Jarred Pfeiffer

Jarred, son of Joel, is the tenured professor of ceramics at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, CA. His work ranges from wheel thrown platters to slip-cast sculpture. After receiving his undergraduate degree from UW he taught mathematics for two years as part of Teach for America and took that love of math into his graduate work in ceramics. Jarred: “My work explores the beauty of mathematics and its relationship with the world around us. Math is omnipresent, from the enormous structure of a galaxy to that of a mere snowflake. My work highlights the universality of math, in appreciation of the complex beauty of mathematics in the natural world.”



Bernard J. Moran (1928 - 2012)

Bernard was an artist, printer, father of 11 children, a funny and talented man who was kind and loving. He attended Layton Art School and had exhibited his artwork in many places around Wisconsin. His landmark drawings of Green Bay and De Pere featuring prominent historical buildings, homes and churches earned him acclaim as a chronicler of Brown County history. He loved to draw.

Paul Moran

Paul, son of Bernard, is an artist and art educator for the Waukesha School District. Paul: “Since I was very young I have wanted to draw like my father, he was my first inspiration to make a collection of marks on paper become something alive! What I find especially gratifying is that my son is an artist too! This drawing was done one evening in the drawing studio at UW-Stout when I was 20 years old, and I was attempting to capture the image of myself in a quick study. The drawing shows my interest in charcoal drawing, its material quality, and its flexibility as a tool for spontaneity.”

Owen Moran

Owen, son of Paul, is a third-year student at UW-Stevens Point with a major in Art History and a minor in Communications. Owen: “I attempted this self portrait for the most part using different qualities of line rather than shading, building up more and more lines to show value adds to the sketchy, gestural impact I wanted the drawing to have. My dad's advice and instruction has helped me to grow as an artist and to find new ways to question myself and to solve problems. In this way I see my dad in this portrait as much as myself.”


James and Oscar Tomasello

James (40) and Oscar (9) share creative undertakings include Lego building, tic-tac-toeing, dance partying, snacking and the occasional shared art piece. James spends his days painting murals with Milwaukee area high school students, while Oscar attends school, plays soccer, piano and chess and is working on mastering the front crawl in swim.

Both Tomasello boys enjoy throwing rocks into Lake Michigan near the custard stand at Bradford Beach.


Ken Anderson

Ken is an Emeritus Professor of Art at Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska.

Josh Anderson

Josh, son of Ken, is an Assistant Professor of Art at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee.

Exhibit Hours

The art exhibit opens Thursday, November 16, and is open to the public Monday through Friday, noon to 5 pm, and through the start of any performance.