martedì 20 aprile 2010

Interview with Douglas Max Utter

q)Let’s start with the basics; what's your full name, where do you live, and how old are you?

a)Douglas Max Utter

q) Do you have any formal training?

a)Some. I had several tutors as a teen. Does teaching art count as formal training? I think it should – I learned a lot from it. I’ve taught 1st and 2nd year drawing and painting at the Cleveland Institute of Art and as part of an MFA program at Kent State University, and also Advanced Painting to fourth year students at Akron University. I’ve also done a great deal of research over the past 20 years for reviews and essays I’ve written about visual art for various magazines, newspapers and museums. All these things have made a gradual difference in the way my work is focussed.

q) Did the place you grew up in influence your image making?

a)I think so. I started painting landscapes in England, near Oxford where I lived for a year when I was a boy. A little later I did some plein aire painting far to the west of Cleveland, in the corner of Iowa where my grandparents lived. Farms and abandoned buildings attracted me, and then derelict city scenes. Recently I revisited some of those subjects in a series of memory paintings and rainy cityscapes, following my mother’s death.

q) How do you come up with your concepts?

a)I sometimes paint scenes from my dreams, or from folklore or traditional biblical subjects. But even in those paintings most of my imagery is based on photographs, either news photos or my own. I don’t use actual photos as part of the physical work of art, but “draw” them in various ways, with spray paint or tar or black pastel. Conceptual content tends to grow out of the imagery and materials, not the other way around – I’m interested in the role of intuition as an agent of psychic expansion. I’m equally intrigued by the phenomenon of “presence.” I look for combinations of subject and technique that generate a sense of surprise, such as might be experienced when encountering another person in a dark room.

q) Describe your creations in a clear, concise and understandable sentence. What do you call them?

a)I call them “expressive.” I look for parallels between found imagery such as news photos, and deep psychic structures, and for techniques and materials that can serve as passageways between these.

q)What other mediums would you like to explore in your image making?

a)I’m planning some installation and video work that will incorporate painted imagery.

q)What is the best time in the day for you to work on a project? Is there one, or is it more about the environment -- maybe the right mood?

a)Whenever I have the time and the studio is warm enough. But I also work at home, usually on the dining room table, making a big mess, usually during the day because the light is better. I try to ignore my moods.

q) What are your artistic influences?...and …generally who or what influences you the most?

a)El Greco, Rembrandt, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Milton Avery, Picasso, Willem DeKooning, Francesco Clemente, Gerhardt Richter, Frank Auerbach, R. B. Kitaj. Some of these were very early, like Picasso, and others like Frank Auerbach I first became aware of after I made work that connected with theirs – after which I began to integrate aspects of their thinking with my own. There’s a lot of give-and-take in art making, I think. I also feel there’s often a particular painting I’ve encountered in the past, somewhere under each of my own works, secretly moving and motivating its imagery and technical tendencies. Sometimes I suddenly become aware of it – like, “O, it’s a Vuillard!”

q) Who are some of your favourite artists/designers/photographers?

a)Lucian Freud, William Kentridge, Marlene Dumas, Fabian Marcaccio, Julie Mehretu, Nan Goldin, Sally Mann, Amy Casey, Kasumi (video artist)

q) What is your next project?Exhibition?Collaboration?

a)Two retrospective exhibitions (which will include some new painting), one in May at the Asterisk Gallery in Cleveland, the other at The Art Seen, a converted movie theatre in Vermilion, Ohio on display Jume 1 – August 31.

q)What are your plans for the future?

a)I am very bad at plans. I hope to reinvent myself several more times.

q)Are there some web sites that You would like to recomend? Artists, art communities, xx,...!?

a)Amy Casey has a delightful website –, and my good friends, Matt Dibble –, and Randall Tiedman – and there are other links on my website:

q)What sort of music do you listen to?

a)I’m a big fan of classical music, especially J.S. Bach and Dmitri Shostakovitch, but also a million other composers and much contemporary music. Funk revival like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings delights me, as well as the original R&B and Soul sounds, like the O’Jays, Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations. And Tom Waits, Radiohead; so many things.

q)Do you collect anything?If so what?

a)Not really. I have a bunch of brown and white Staffordshire chinoiserie-type platters and plates from the 19th century, and old books, and a few dozen paintings and prints by my friends.

q)What do you do for fun?

a)I walk or go to movies or kiss someone, or play with my daughter’s cat Spanky. And I love to travel.

q)Any advice you can pass onto aspiring artists/designers?

a)Let yourself be guided by your passions and by people who appear in your life.

q)Your contacts…

a)Are very disorganized...I don’t have a coherent list at the moment, but I’ll send something a little later.

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