Madison - Truman Lowe (Wakajahųkga) passed away at home, surrounded by family, on Saturday, March 30th. With his natural creativity and innate sense of humor, Truman always made the most of life, even after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 gastric cancer last fall. One of the foremost Native artists of his generation, he will also be remembered as an incredibly generous, eloquent mentor and teacher to many.
Truman was born on January 19,1944 at the Indian Mission near Black River Falls, Wisconsin, the youngest of six children. He grew up poor in material possessions, but rich in family and Ho Chunk traditions. From an early age, he learned basketry, ribbon work and beading from his parents, and developed a deep appreciation for the natural world. He was especially fascinated with streams and rivers, and the way water moves and reflects light. These crafts, stories, and ways of living learned in his childhood would influence his art for the rest of his life.
Truman graduated with a BS from UW LaCrosse in 1969. After teaching art at Valders High School, he received a Ford Fellowship to pursue his MFA at UW Madison, graduating in 1973. He has received Distinguished Alumni Awards from both UW LaCrosse and UW Madison, and upon his retirement from the University in 2010, was granted Emeritus Status.
He spent the first year of his academic career as a visiting lecturer at Emporia State University (1973-74), returning to UW Madison as Assistant Dean of Students and then to a joint position as Native American Studies Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Art. He became a full Professor of Art, primarily teaching sculpture, in 1989, where he went on to teach thousands of students over the course of 35 years with the University. He served as Art Department Chair from 1992 to `95. As chair of the Chancellor's Scholarship Committee from 1984 to 2004, he worked tirelessly to recruit and support underrepresented students interested in pursuing their education at the University.
From 2000-2008 he was Curator of Contemporary Art for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). During his time at the NMAI, he curated numerous exhibits including Native Modernism: The Art of George Morrison and Allan Houser (2004-2005), Continuum: 12 Artists at the NMAI's space in New York City, Fritz Scholder: Indian/Not Indian (2008), and exhibited the work of James Luna and Edgar Heap of Birds at the Venice Biennale in 2005 and 2007.
He received numerous prestigious awards throughout his career, including National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1994-95), Eiteljorg Fellow for Native American Fine Art (1999), Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters Fellow (2005), Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award (2007) and Hilldale Award (2009). The significance of his work has been captured in the book "Woodland Reflections: The Art of Truman Lowe" by Jo Ortel (2003).
Truman's artwork has been exhibited in solo and group shows around the world, from the Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI, to the Crow's Shadow Institute of Art in Oregon to Embassies in Bolivia and Cameroon, and many, many places in between. One of the more memorable events of his artistic career occurred in 1997, when he was commissioned to create a piece for a year-long group show of contemporary Native sculptors for the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden at the White House. His work can be found in the collections of many institutions, including the Eiteljorg Museum, the Heard Museum, the Portland Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the NMAI.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Nancy (Knabe) Lowe, daughter Tonia Lowe (James Page), grandson Anders Page, brother Chloris Lowe, sister Irene Keenan, and three generations of amazing nieces and nephews, all of whom affectionately call him "Uncle Tru."
Truman is preceded in death by his mother Mabel Lowe, his father Martin Lowe, brothers Clifford Lowe and Raymond Lowe, sister Arvina Thayer, and his son Martin "Kunu" Lowe.
A memorial service celebrating Truman's life will be held on Sunday, May 5th at 1:30 PM at the Pyle Center at 702 Langdon Street, Madison, WI 53706. We will be collecting photos and stories about Truman, so if you have one you'd like to share, please feel free to bring it to the service.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Truman's honor to: Agrace Hospice Care (www.agrace.com), which provided exactly the kind of care he needed in the last months of his life (with special thanks to Brian and Michele); or the National Museum of the American Indian (www.americanindian.si.edu), an institution that is committed to sharing the values, traditions and creativity of Native people with the world, to which he also dedicated his life.
Though he wasn't a professor of mine, we had numerous conversations about computers and 3D graphics. He was always happy to discuss these topics, and I appreciated his opinion very much. I'm sorry to hear of his passing. Jean H.
I was sad to see of his passing. I was at Madison in the 80's and had Truman as a sculpture professor. I really appreciated his quiet calm way. I remember having an idea and him just helping me find a way to create it. No questioning my idea, just helping me figure it out. It was a quiet way of affirming the artist in each student that I think made him such a great teacher. I still have my favorite piece from that class! He will be remembered.
I arrived at UW Madison from NY as a grad student in the Art Dept in 1975. While my focus was printmaking I remember Truman so well, his gentle nature made a deep impression on me. A wonderful artist and a wonderful man. I am saddened to hear of his passing; my condolences and love go out to his family.
Dear Lowe family and friends,
Everyone at No Stomach For Cancer would like to extend their sympathies on the recent passing of Truman Lowe (Wakajahųkga). Please accept our heartfelt condolences for the loss of your friend and loved one. May God bless you during this difficult time.
No Stomach For Cancer
I loved and appreciated Truman as the wonderful professor, artist, and human being that he was. I am deeply saddened by his early passing. I will be forever grateful for his teaching, kindness, and for allowing me to be one of his studio assistants when he was so busy trying to split his time between two departments. I will cherish my too few return visits and conversations. I send my sincere wishes to his family, and to all who loved and learned from him who are feeling this loss. Dee Boyle-Clapp
Too soon, too soon. Thank you, Truman, for being here.
One of my favorite professors at U.W. Great heart, great teacher, inspiring; and an inspired artist. He was a blessing to many and will be sorely missed. Marcia Schenkel
I have fond memories of Truman and the inspiration he gave to me while he was at Emporia State University. He TRU-ly changed my life, encouraging me to move to Wisconsin to finish my education which I did. He helped me so much adjust to Madison and we had much fun doing it...that... I will never forget. Thank you TRUMAN for all the GREAT TIMES and MEMORIES. My sincere sympathy to you NANCY and TONYA(just a baby when at Emporia) Richard "Rick" Baker
I returned to the UW to finish my degree in my 40s, unsure of myself and whether I really had any talent. I was fortunate enough to get into Truman's beginning sculpture class. He encouraged me and guided me and gave me confidence to stretch and see the world with an artist's eye. I'll never be famous but I continue to create and I thank Truman for the blessing he was in my life.
Like so many others, I am heartbroken at Truman’s passing. Through his elegant sculpture and drawing, and his work throughout his entire career on behalf of contemporary Native American artists, Truman made an indelible mark on the art world. His passion for art and for “making sawdust,” as he liked to call his art-making, found a counterweight in his dedication and commitment to education and community: his legacy in these realms will live on thanks to his work recruiting and supporting innumerable students and faculty of color to UW-Madison, an institution he revered. Inside and outside the classroom, he taught and mentored countless more students. He was an excellent artist, teacher and colleague -- but he was an even more exceptional human being. By example, he taught all those who knew him about selflessness, unconditional love, generosity and grace. The world is greatly diminished without Truman in it.
PhotosAdd a photo
Have a floral question? Call +1 888-640-1035
Healing Registry Unavailable at the Moment!