“ I consider one’s art an extension of one’s life. My work, whether painting, drawing, writing, gardening, or performing is a visual or written translation of my life, my feelings, people I have encountered, places I have been, and things I have seen.”
Louise Cutler’s latest paintings combine her love of gardening and fashion design. She studied fashion design at the International Academy of Merchandise and Design in Chicago and studied tailoring during her junior and senior year at Dunbar Vocational High School. Drawing has always come naturally for her; as a child she drew continually. In grade school her desks were filled with pencil and crayon drawings of homes, cars, playgrounds and people. She loved making images using clay and would often create an entire world. Her imagination was her way of escaping some of the harsh realities of life while growing up in the early sixties in urban America. “Even as a child, I knew art would forever be a part of my life.”
Ms. Cutler was in studio arts her first two years of high school and did extraordinarily well; she was chosen to participate in a summer arts program for exceptional high school art students. The program paid students to study at a college and produce art over the summer. She loved it and would have continued if not for an abrupt transfer to a new school. Gardening came a little later in her life; it wasn’t until after she had married her wonderful husband and mate. They lived in a lovely home in Evanston, IL. There she discovered her love for gardening and her green thumb.
Ms. Cutler’s work is often figurative with a semi realistic approach. She loves people, faces and the clothed human form. Two of her favorite activities when out of town are people watching and taking pictures of people. She often creates collections of 15 to 20 paintings at a time. “Feelings come in so many different waves that in order to capture them you must be able to adjust. I like to ride the wave until it ends”. Over the years she has experimented with several different mediums and styles. Her skills as an artist range from working in pastel, oil, acrylic, clay, gliding, and mixed media art to writing plays, music and drama. She considers herself a multimedia, multicultural artist. Her workshops and classes hit on a range of artistic subject matters such as tie-dye, theater arts, pointillism, and stippling.
“I believe a true Artist experiments, because he/she is in search of his/her voice”.
Her desire for peace and harmony is echoed throughout her work, something that was hard to achieve growing up in a family of nine. “I believe the purpose of my paintings is to bring peace and serenity into a world were chaos has become the norm”. Her paintings are figurative with nature as the backdrop. Each figure is draped in lovely garments, which are transformed into divinely beautiful works of art through the use of acrylics and gilding. Ms Cutler chose the art of gilding because of its illusional affect of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Gilding is the process of affixing tissue-thin sheets of precious or common metals to a carefully prepared surface using a special adhesive size to create a lustrous metallic finish. Gilding is an ancient craft that dates back to Egyptian and Biblical times. Gilding was very popular in Italy during the middle ages, until the late Renaissance. It was used to highlight religious paintings and carvings.
Ms. Cutler uses the metal leaf to enhance and highlight the illusion of simplistic grandeur. She uses several different types of metal leaf in her work: 21 and 23 kt. gold, white gold, copper and variegated metal leaf. The variegated leaf is one of her favorite metals. It is a heat-treated composition that creates colorful patterns on the surface of the metal. You will see this metal in quite a few of Ms. Cutler’s paintings. She discontinued the use of sterling silver metal in her painting because it tarnished, and exchanged it with white gold.
Ms. Cutler likes to design her gowns and robed forms with a sense of delicate elegance, glamour and sophistication that is reminiscent of times past when women wore gloves and didn’t go out without a hat. “I fear that someday this type of beauty and elegance will no longer exist even in our minds if we do not embrace and preserve it. I believe we can combine the past and present in a way that will create harmony, and paintings that are visually pleasing to the viewer.”
Ms. Cutler uses two forms of acrylic mediums: a liquid acrylic, which is a more fluid version of acrylic having the consistency of ink that produces some amazing iridescent colors, and a more concentrated condensed acrylic. She also uses ink instead of water along with her acrylic to eliminate water’s diluting effects on the colors. She chose watercolor paper for its texture, surface and durability. Unlike canvas, watercolor paper creates the illusion of delicacy that works well with her painting style. She did however experience some degree of difficulty when applying metal leaf to the surface of the watercolor paper because of its absorbency. Through trail and error, she finally came up with a solution that worked.
She purposely leaves out the face. “I find faces irrelevant to this work. They would only add complications for the viewer. My paintings are meant to be enjoyed in their entirety, from the form out not just for the sake of a face.” Ms. Cutler ideas and style references are often from her own imagination: old photos that she has purchased at estate sales or flea markets, late European masters and the Asian culture. “I find this eclectic blend of cultures and form fascinatingly refreshing”. She leaves the negative space in my painting to their own devises to form as they please. “I find when left alone they create a nice sense of balance giving the viewer a place to find calm and rest. It’s like having a place to lay ones head.”
Her desire to continually develop and explore her craft through travel, classes, books, and people keeps her work fresh. But it’s her love and interest in humanity that gives her work the ability to connect with people on a more spiritual and emotional level. “One of my greatest desires as an artist is someday to see all of the great masters works I have ever read about or have seen in classes throughout my life. This coupled with my studies would mean everything to me.”
In pursuit of her desire to visit the great works of the early masters Ms. Cutler traveled to London with her husband where she visited the National Gallery twice. She would have gone a third and forth time, but it was her first time in London and there were more things to see and do (one being a visit to the Tate Gallery) as well as a few other historical places. In London her life was changed; she came back a more determined and deliberate artist. Before going she could paint, draw and could capture her subject, but she discovered something new, she learned the early artists not only mastered their art and captured their subject they also governed themselves in their craft and in the process discovered their artistic voices beyond their craft and their medium. This artistic voice was now something she was in search of.
Her next travels took her to Paris where she visited the Louvre five times on three separate trips to the great city, first in “1998”, then in “2002” and finally 2011. Her first trip to Paris was only for three days during a layover from spending two weeks in Africa with her husband on a mission trip. There she taught art to the local village children. She drew many of portraits while in Africa of the children. She learned a much about their culture. After returning home she created a series of pastel paintings depicting her trip there. The trip to Paris was a treat; she spent all three days in the Louvre. Her favorite piece was the Winged Victory that sits towering over the top of a stairway. Her favorite galley contained the religious art from the Italian Renaissances period. This is where she first discovered her love of gilding. These two areas of Louvre are still her favorite even now after her third visit. Her second trip to Paris was longer. This time she was there two weeks and was able to see much more but still visited Louvre. She fell in love with the cafés but her favorite place was Montmartre. On her recent visit to Paris it felt like visiting and old friend, exploring with her children and viewing Paris from their eyes. It was magnificent and yes, they visited the Louvre. However, this time with even more intent Ms. Cutler uncovered something new in her favorite gallery. She discovered with closer examination within the gilding of the halos of the Italian Renaissance religious painting there were etched patterns - - etched patterns. “Wow!” Even with this third visit under her belt she still feels she has only scratched the surface of seeing and understanding the magnitude of greatness these artists possessed.
Her next trip was to Rome. “I love Paris, but I adore Rome”. During her time there she visited the Vatican and saw her favorite of all paintings, “The School of Athens” by Raphael and stood in the presence of the Sistine Chapel. It was magnificent. She traveled through the many monuments and churches that housed some of the most amazing paintings and sculptures of the early masters. It was a treasure hunt. Her favorite place in Rome was the Galleria Borghese. It was coming face to face with Bernini himself. “To know who you are and what your life’s work is at such a young age. Wow!” She discovered one of his most famous sculptures “The Ecstasy of Teresa” in a small church chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, As well as two of her favorite paintings, “The Crucifixion of Saint Peter”, and “The Conversion of Saint Paul” by Caravaggio located in Santa Maria del Popolo the morning just before leaving Rome. This was the most incredible thing about Rome, the fact this amazing work was all around you not just in a museum. “ I will forever live in the wonderful land of “Ah!” Even if I were to visit these great works a million times, I would not lose my passion for them ”.
After high school Ms. Cutler left her artistic talents behind and started college. She attended Malcolm X Jr. College where her mother persuaded her to pursue a career in nursing. This didn’t go over well as she hated hospitals. Ms. Cutler never made it to the nursing program and with no other major in sight she took the advice of her older brother. He was an artist in his own right and knowing her talents, suggested she take some art courses while there figure out what she wanted to become. She took his advice and ended up staying at the two-year Junior College three years taking everything they had to offer in the field of art. By the time she graduated with her Associate degree she had become the first student in Malcolm X Junior College’s history to graduate with an Associates degree in Fine Art. After Malcolm X she studied at the University of Illinois Chicago with a major in early childhood education, but this was not what she truly wanted. While in high school she discovered her love for designing and making clothing, especially gowns so she enter the International Academy of Merchandise and Design, but the lack of finances ended her quest so she entered the stimulating world of employment.
After several sessions of retail sales jobs (in every sort of venue one could possibly imagine), a few tailoring jobs here and there, on-stage acting and runway modeling Ms. Cutler finally, with the help of a friend, began working at one of the most exciting places of her retail career, an art store in down-town Chicago. This opened up a whole new avenue for her. Her knowledge of art materials and supplies increased dramatically and artist and art people on a daily basis surrounded her. She was learning more about art than she had ever thought possible. Ms. Cutler loved downtown Chicago, it had a life of it’s own. There was such an amazing subculture among the tall building and business- as -usual people, the street performers, the homeless, the shoe shiners, the street artist, and Bohemians of Chicago. She couldn’t help but be drawn to it.
After working at the art store for a few weeks, she was persuaded by one of the street artists to come and join them to draw people. Ms. Cutler had never drawn on the streets before and the only models she had ever used were in a studio setting. Plus the fact that she hadn’t been involved in any art related activity for a long time made this offer a little intimidating. But she took him up on it and became a regular fixture in the portrait art scene on the streets of Chicago. Her steady start-up model was her son Anthony without whom her life would have been incomplete. Her life as a street artist taught her a lot about people and their struggles and the extra money helped out with her bills. Ms. Cutler was only a part-time employee then and didn’t believe in giving a job much of her life unless it was what she felt was her life’s calling. Retail was definitely not it. As a street artist she traveled with a team of other artists to all the local fair and festivals, sometimes drawing between seventy to a hundred people a day. Her skills in portrait quick sketch had improved to the point where she could sketch out a person within ten minutes. She learned that there was an art to quick sketching on the street. “People were not interested in us capturing the absolute truth, but just enough of it to make it appear as reality”. This was totally different from what she had learned in school.
After a few months of working in the art store Ms. Cutler’s sister convinced her she should volunteer some of her free time at a local Chicago Park District, knowledge she had grained from working in the art store. She entered the wonderful world of teaching, (and what a wonderful world it was). After a while Ms. Cutler became so involved with the Park District she only drew with the street artists on the weekends and during the summer. Her volunteer work was noticed by one of the heads of the Park District and a full time position was created for her as an Art-Craft /Drama Instructor. She had found her life’s work and it was art. But this was only the beginning.
Since then, Ms. Cutler has worked for the Evanston Fine Art Center and has conducted workshops for the Noyes Cultural Art Center, and more recently at the Colorado Springs Bemis School of Arts. Ms. Cutler has also helped to develop art programs for the City of Chicago, has appeared on UPN’s, (United Paramount Network) Channel 50 Kids Talk program on behalf of the Chicago Park District, and on cable Channel 6 in Evanston on behalf of the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. She has received two grants from the Evanston Arts Council in 1998 and 2000 to develop art related youth programming. She created and developed Gallery 1401 (now known as the Peace Gallery) at The Douglas Park Cultural and Community Center in Chicago. While at Douglas Park she was the coordinator for the after school and summer day camp programs for children, preschool through eighth grade. Ms. Cutler sat on several planning and development committees for the Chicago Park District and First Night Evanston (a large New Year's Eve celebration in Evanston, IL). She served as a juror for the Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival, 2002. She has written and produced several plays and performance art pieces for the Drama Department at Douglas Park Cultural and Community Center, and The Crusader's Church youth department, both in Chicago. She was instrumental in the transformation of Douglas Park field house into the Douglas Park Cultural and Community Center as it is today.
In 1997 Ms. Cutler decided to pursue her visual arts career full time. Since then her paintings have been show in the DuSable Museum of African American Art, The Museum of Science and Industry and throughout Illinois, New York, Atlanta, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and several venues throughout Colorado. Her paintings have also graced the covers of business brochures, calendars, and directories. She has won numerous competitions, awards and grants and has been featured in several newspapers throughout the Chicago-land area and Colorado Springs. Ms. Cutler was the founder and creator of Art In The Rail Garden, an outdoor gallery along the Metra railroad tracks in an alley near her home while in Evanston. Several out-door painting and sculptures were created for the gallery. In 2001 she added a children's gallery and a large mural, “Natural Harmony" along the underpass leading into the alley for which she received a grant for from the Evanston Cultural Arts Fund. The Gallery garden has been featured in the Chicago Reader, as well as the Evanston Review.
Her art programs focus on personal development, strengthening family ties, and commitment to the local community through art. Ms Cutler took 2007-2009 off from painting to focus her attention on a musical stage production "Think About It” that she had written and produced. “Think About It” deals with the HIV/AIDS crisis here in the US, with a large focus on the African American Community. Her show premiered in Colorado Springs, CO. in October of 2007and in Chicago in June of 2008 through the Chicago Park District, with great feedback from the audience. Her hope was to take the musical throughout the US and beyond in a desire to help promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention through the arts and to save a few lives on the way.
Ms. Cutler likes doing whatever fits her at the moment:
“I believe in using every medium at my disposal as a form of creative expression so I am in a continual state of creativeness”.
Ms Cutler currently has an art studio at the Museum Of Arts in Fort Collins Colorado.
She is a native of Chicago now living in Fort Collins Co.