Sentries and Towers: Cam Anderson’s Art Beckons at Overture Center

Susan Smetzer-Anderson May 3, 2023

Cam Anderson’s Sentries and Towers exhibit at the Overture Center embodies his draw toward “true” north—his enthrallment with the white pines of northern Wisconsin, his interweaving of material-spiritual-historical worlds, and his deep affection for the places that defined his boyhood. A painter by training, you might be tempted to think Cam would describe himself as an “artist.” But he prefers another word: “I am really a ‘maker’,” he says. He looks at his hands, raises them, and you will see his thick muscular fingers marked and scabbed by the tools of his trade. They are not only the hands of a painter and drawer, they’re the hands of a carpenter and craftsman.

When he was a boy, he used these hands to build a gigantic three-story tree house on his parents’ farm. From there, he and his friends could view the land ebbing and flowing green-blue to the distance. Though he may have been the last person picked for any sports team at school, he could make just about anything. It was this skill, plus his powerful sense of awe for the land, his intellectual pursuits and awareness of God, and his solid home life, that formed his core sense of himself as a maker who “sees” the world with an eye for dimension, color, and holy complexity.

Cam’s current exhibit at the Overture Center features two- and three-dimensional art pieces that evoke towering white pines scourged by fire; an abandoned iron ore mine; a granary; and a chapel at a beloved camp. Markers of time’s passing and man’s work, these images also signify his sense of connection to long-ago artisans who labored in timber, metal, and stone. Harkening to his family’s heritage in the north, Cam would not be surprised if he could claim kinship with the builders of the very structures he’s based his art upon.

In thinking of the primal and spiritually-rich dimensions of his work, Cam alludes to the writings of the “inklings”—Tolkein and C.S. Lewis in particular. In his artist statement for the exhibit, Cam refers to Lewis’s (1898-1963) Afterward in Pilgrim’s Regress, in which Lewis reflects on the spirit or sensation of sehnsucht … [that] had been, since youth, ever-present to him… ‘That unnamable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead…the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves. The primal sensation that we, in our unguarded moments, recognize as a hunger for something more, even a place called “north”—a place that is higher, from whence we might see vistas that extend far beyond our current expanse—resonates in Cam’s Sentries and Towers and invites us to ask, what are we looking for?

You are invited to join Cam at his artist reception May 5, 5-8 PM. He will talk about his work at 7:15 PM. Sentries and Towers is on exhibit in Gallery III until May 28 at the Overture Center, 201 State Street, Madison, WI. Cam Anderson is Associate Director of Upper House.