DOUGLAS MAX UTTER
My paintings, large or small, are often variations on a number of themes having to do with identity, sexuality, and political events and personalities. What interests me most is the intersection of contemporary life with eternal, mythological or religious motifs. I have painted large renditions in experimental media, based on pictures of Reagan and the Pope shaking hands, for instance, or referring loosely to news photographs of tragic events ranging from murders to plane crashes, earthquakes, and the endless pain and tragedy of wars around the world. I have also painted moments of family intimacy, romance, and sex. Throughout these works a common thread is a fascination with what I think of as the phenomenon of “presence.” By this I mean especially the moments surrounding recognition, when we are uncertain of someone’s identity or intentions, a moment between preconception and a dawning understanding, or the beginning of acceptance – or the beginning of fear. The ambivalence and openness of such moments is one of the states of mind that painting can duplicate, I think, and over the years I’ve looked for different ways to trigger that process.
The two small paintings presently on exhibit are typical of the studies I’ve produced at home or on the road over the past thirty years. Usually these are meant to stand as works of art on their own, and aren’t “studies” in the sense that I intend to incorporate their imagery in more finished or larger paintings. They’re more like brief visual essays, usually on the themes I outlined above. “Hot Tub in Besthesda” is actually based on a pastel drawing that I did during a visit to a motel in 1987. I doubt that the motel was in any Washington DC suburb, but I think these two characters resemble certain present-day politicians, hence the title. “ Imaginary Friend #2.” I think it is a painting about aloneness, about introspection and the loss of boundaries. Any portrait head is like one’s image in a mirror, except that the artist invents the mirror, and improvises the self that is reflected there.
-Douglas Max Utter 2013