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6C - The Daily Iowan - Iowa City, Iowa - Thursday, September 25, 2008

80 hours

Big doings in a small medium New York-based artist Amy Cutler will talk about her gouache narratives today at 8 p.m. By ELIZABETH TIMMINS

Amy Cutler’s work may be small, but her prestige is not. The native New Yorker’s gouache-on-paper narratives are displayed in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, span the pages of Artforum, have been compared with the works of Henry Darger, and were included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. Gouache is a paint used much like a watercolor, but it contains more pigment and when layered, it produces opacity. Cutler — scheduled to lecture today at 8 p.m. in W151 Pappajohn Business Building — acquires inspiration from everyday life: a subway ride, current news, and items from other cultures. She’ll take what she hears or sees and let her imagination take over to create a detailed painting. Quirky, mysterious, her narratives thrive on tension. Although each painting tells a different story, the fictional world of her pieces often feature women in obscure situations. “The work invites you in because it’s narrative and illustrative, so the viewer feels comfortable with that,” Cutler said. “And then once you enter the realm of the characters there is always something a little off, psychologically.” The paintings are “snapshots of a larger scenario,” she said. She believes the ambiguity of each illustration allows the viewer to step in with her or his own associations to the piece. Cutler attributes her success to consistency, hard work, and luck. In 2000, her persistence paid off, and she exhibited her work in the Drawing Center in New York, a goal she set for herself after graduating from college. Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, a New York gallery, has represented Cutler since then. She has painted gouache narratives on paper since college, at the Cooper Union School of Art, while studying under Susan Chrysler White, now the UI Art School’s head of painting and drawing. However, Cutler has not always used gouache. After she discovered she was allergic to oil paints, she began experimenting with alternative methods. That exploration eventually led to the use of gouache, an opaque material that absorbs rather than reflects light, creating a matte look. The nature of the medium allows her to create smallscaled, precise paintings. White praises Cutler’s strong work ethic and vision, and she noted that Cutler’s paintings were quite distinctive when she first created them. Since then, other artists have used the intimate narration that Cutler helped to pioneer. “I think in the last 10 or 15 years, works on paper have been given as much importance as the more muscular paintings on canvas,” White said. The UI faculty member believes that Cutler has been central to the resurgence of drawing and works on paper in the art community. “I think that this younger generation of artists has made this real inroad with works on paper,” she said. “It isn’t about transforming it later into a larger work.” Past graduate students have asked Cutler to visit Iowa City and lecture, White said, but because of commitments, Cutler had been unable to come.


“Elephant Ferries,” 2006, Amy Cutler, Gouache on paper


“Passage,” 2005, Amy Cutler, Gouache on paper


Amy Cutler’s “Trial” (2004) is one of her many narrative gouache illustrations. Cutler will lecture today at 8 p.m. about her work with gouache — a type of heavily pigmented paint used like watercolor to produce an opaque effect. In this visit to Iowa City, Cutler will not only give a free lecture to the public, she will also meet one-on-one with graduate painting students in their studios. White believes that people will be quite interested in Cutler’s work. “This is stuff they don’t get to see that often,” White said. The public lecture and in-class forum allow people to ask Cutler questions about her artwork and understand the process. “I like the idea of mixing it up and having younger artists that the graduate students feel

LECTURE Amy Cutler When: 8 p.m. today Where: W151 Pappajohn Business Building Admission: Free

real kinship to, and I think it’s important for them to see someone making work and becoming very, very successful in doing so,” White said.

Big doings in a small medium  

Amy Cutler artist lecture at the University of Iowa