Etched in Tone

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The work of local artist and CF Professor Tyrus Clutter – using religious imagery etched over Biblical manuscripts – sets an exhibit rich with religious undertones and innovative dual conceptuality at the Appleton Museum of Art summer exhibition.

By: John Sotomayor

At first glance, peering at the images of Jesus or St Peter’s Cathedral etched over Biblical passages written in Latin appears to be the one-dimensional work of monks during the Middle Ages. They are not. They are the renditions created by local artist and College of Central Florida (CF) Associate Professor of Art and Art History, Tyrus Clutter. Furthermore, his work masterfully invokes dual related concepts existing simultaneously in one place.

Currently a fixture within the Ocala arts community, Professor Clutter’s mixed media printmaking work has been exhibited throughout North America and Europe, and appeared in journals and magazines such as The South Carolina Review, The Christian Century, and Arts & Letters: Journal of Contemporary Culture. His work will be featured as the summer exhibition at the Appleton Museum of Art, Con-Text: The Word Based Images of Tyrus Clutter, from June 10 through August 6.

The Art

According to Professor Clutter, everything presented in the summer exhibit will be color etchings done in a specific process known as color viscosity etching. That technique uses at least three or four colors that are combined and mixed in different ways. “It is a highly technical process,” said Professor Clutter, “A regular black and white etching would look like a pen and ink drawing, but this appears more like a painting.”

The style of art Professor Clutter uses is known as palimpsest, which either has text inlaid in the background, or made directly from texted parchment. The process is derived by scraping the primary layer of text off of ancient parchments, which leaves behind a perceptible residue of text, and is ultimately covered with new layers of text. Professor Clutter sought the best modern application to implement the palimpsest process to create the text image. His technique sets his work apart.

“In photoshop, I have a painting or a photograph and I layer pages of text in front of the images and erase parts, allowing me to take the picture away leaving behind a drawing made up of text,” said Professor Clutter. “All of those layers combine to make darker tone values, with the lighter tone values removed.”

In his work, the layers of text are erased then combined to reveal an image that conceptually relates to the text – such as the image of Jesus or the Cathedral over biblical passages written in English, Hebrew, or Latin.

“I wanted the word and the image to relate to each other,” said Professor Clutter. “Looking at the image, the incarnation of Christ being both the image of God and the word of God – as the Gospel of John would say. This art process allows both the word and image of God to exist at the same place at the same time.”

The idea that images can have multiple meanings at the same time appealed to Professor Clutter. For instance, the Cathedral floorplans when viewed from above always form the image of a cross. So, to the observer, they can either seen cathedral blueprints, or a cross. Adding the word “church” to form those images add another abstract dimension, since the “church” could be the physical building structure or the corporal body of Christ, or the congregation of people. It can mean various things at the same time.

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The Artist

Professor Clutter was drawn to color printing when he was an art student in grad school. He enrolled for painting but discovered the technique while working for the university gallery cataloguing the collection. Born and raised in Michigan, Professor Clutter holds a BA in Art from Spring Arbor University and an MFA in Painting from Bowling Green State University. He admired and studied the work for 20 years, mastering the established techniques while adding his own – utilizing the palimpsest imagery.

Prior to his professorship at CF, which began in 2010, Professor Clutter served as the Director for the nonprofit arts organization, Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) for five years. According to CIVA’s website, founded in 1979, “CIVA explores the profound relationship between art and faith, forming a cooperative relationship between those in the arts, the Church, and culture, ultimately establishing a Christian presence within the secular art world.”

Currently, Professor Clutter serves on the board of Fine Arts for Ocala. Respected and recognized primarily for his printmaking, Clutter’s prints and paintings have not only been exhibited across the United States and Europe, but are also permanent fixtures in hundreds of private collections and museums, such as the New York Public Library, the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, Kansas, and the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City. Locally, his work is represented at Shannon Roth Collection on the square in downtown Ocala.

Local Artist and CF Associate Professor Tyrus Clutter
Local Artist and CF Associate Professor Tyrus Clutter

The Reception and Exhibit

Professor Clutter will be present at the opening reception for Con-Text: The Word Based Images of Tyrus Clutter at the Appleton Museum of Art on Saturday, June 10, 5:30 – 7:30 PM. He will also appear at Shannon Roth Collection for a private reception on Thursday, June 1, 5:30 – 7:30 PM, where additional works will be on display and available. Both events are free and open to the public.

For additional information about the artist, and concerning these events, visit www.tyrusclutter.com

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