Raised in the heart of the Gogebic Iron Range in the days when mines were still operating but in decline. Days when towns across the range were still bustling with three times the population of today,. Like so many high school graduates of the period, Phil Kucera left town to find work in the big city. Sensing a deterioration in the quality of life in the city, he and his wife, Judy, moved to Ironwood in the mid-1970s where he opened an art gallery and picture framing studio.He recently retired after operating a shop noted for its high quality and innovation for over 32 years. For decades he has dabbled in photography, printing and paper art, painting small scale watercolors, and conducting kite building workshops for children of every age throughout the Lake Superior region. His “Whittlesey” piece draws from elements in a number of his interests.
About the Artwork
Charles Whittlesey and the Penokee Hills.In the planning stage of the Penokee exhibit, the name Charles Whittlesey came up often. And our conversations, oral, or through the ether, started to take on a reverence for the man. We began to know him almost personally. We respected his work as a pioneer geologist, but most of all, we loved his writing.Whittlesey first arrived in the Lake Superior basin in 1844 to explore for copper. Soon after, he was tramping through the Penokee Hills to become the first to fully map the magnetic ores at the west end of the Iron Range. His descriptions of working in an incredibly wild country, a good portion of it never having seen a human footprint, gave us a clear understanding of the rigors of his work, and that of all the early explorers. He had the eye of a keen observer, not only attuned to his task as a scientist and documentarian, but to everything within his field of view, and beyond.
Simply stated, it was his prose that intrigued us most the person. There is a humanity planted in his writings that most learned men of the period lacked in theirs. That humanity warmed each of us to Charles Whittlesey.
“Whittlesey’s Notes” is a glimpse into the explorers’ writings, from the perspective of both the geologist and the observer of the character of man.