For years, University of Florida professor Jerry Cutler has been exploring wooded landscapes for allusions to our lives as well as to our longings for the past. Forms link the natural to human even as the subject matter can demonstrate humankind’s self-imposed alienation from nature.
From the catalogue which was produced to accompany this exhibition:
“Until 1989, Cutler was primarily a painter of the human figure and this experience affected his earliest landscapes. Most of his work contains references to universal experiences throughout nature such as life and death. The forest is a place in which life, growth, decay, death, and rebirth are played out in clear ways. Passion Play I is the earliest painting in this exhibition and refers specifically to his memories of his childhood in rural Wisconsin. Even though he had lived in Florida for ten years at the time of this painting, Cutler’s idea of “land” was still very much attached to his youthful experiences. Pitfall is another early landscape that typifies his unique combination of land and body imagery. Though it is recognizable as a landscape, the individual parts of the painting are not so easy to decipher. They seem to relate strongly to the human body from external form down to the most basic structures such as blood vessels.
“Trees and paths took on a more prominent role in Cutler’s paintings of the mid-1990s. Red Bridge, Ring Path, and Hommage Path come from this series of large paintings that placed a human presence within the image through lonely paths to uncertain destinations. Each explores the idea of a journey into places both strange and familiar.
“After working with landscapes for a number of years, Cutler began to incorporate some aspects of traditional Romantic landscapes. Using a lower horizon line gave him the freedom to increase the intensity of the lighting and, therefore, the shadows. In Moonlit Landscape, the low-hanging full moon reflects the light onto the water and through the trees.
“In 1998, Cutler began to focus more of his time painting small-scale works. This scale allowed him a greater opportunity to investigate the effects of foliage within a wooded landscape and to create a more intimate connection between the painted image and the viewer. More important, however, was his experimentation with the form of landscape popularized in the 19th century by Barbizon painters in France and the Hudson River School in the United States. In contrast to these historic movements, Cutler’s contemporary paintings such as Escarpment, Romantic Landscape, and Island at Dusk have a restrained emotional quality, focusing instead on the forms and colors of the natural environment to create vibrant patterns across the canvas.
“Divided Pine and Florida Waters are the most recent paintings in this exhibition. They mark a return to large paintings after a four-year period of focusing on smaller works and reflect the changes that occurred to Cutler’s work during that period. Now, instead of standing detached from the wooded landscape, we stand within the landscape. The patterns of the sky, the eroding bank, and the reflections in the water recall earlier paintings, but the colors of the leaves have a prominent place as well. The cycle of life is clearly presented with a fallen tree in each foreground and an intensely colored young tree growing out of the adjacent bank.”