What Came Home: Artist’s Statement

From early youth I have loved the outdoors.


I was a Boy Scout for many years, then became an Explorer Scout where I relished boating (mostly sailing and canoeing), uncharted hiking excursions, and endured survival camping in sub-zero temperatures. Soon after moving to Upstate New York in 1986, I met Bob Mattheyses, then with the GE Research and Development Center, who introduced me to the wonders of hiking in the Adirondack Mountains. Although Bob and I tackled a number of the High Peaks, and I thought about becoming a 46-er, I probably never will. I’ve been distracted from that goal by breathing the mountain air and, more than anything, seeing the wilderness replete with all its large and small discoveries. And learning these mountains lacked poison ivy was a godsend after years of suffering dreaded reactions almost annually in my youth.

Over the 30-some years of living Upstate and going on mountain treks I started collecting mementos, rocks, bark, bird feathers, lichen, fungi, leaves, branches and twigs. I set some of these objects on the window sills or pinned them to the walls of my studio. After I retired from the Union College faculty in 2015 and reflected on the years of teaching, my thoughts turned to the biological illustration course Prof. Carl George of the biology department and I created that was subsequently co-taught by professors Sandra Wimer (Visual Arts, printmaking & drawing), Peter Tobiessen (Biology, ecology), and more recently, Laini Nemett (my successor in Painting & Drawing) and Nicole Theodosiou (Biology). I recalled students who specialized in close scrutiny of directly observed subjects depicting them in paint or with pencils. As I glanced around my studio, I knew it was time to put what I brought home from treks to artistic use.

Watercolor on paper enhanced with inks, graphite and color pencils were mediums well suited to achieve crisp rendering of the subjects. The resulting ‘still lifes’ comprise this exhibition. My writer friend Prof. Jordan Smith wrote verse to accompany my images, reflecting on his own upstate nature experiences, likewise produced on paper.


Walter Hatke, NA

Baker Professor of Visual Arts Emeritus, Union College

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