Retired Marshall professor opens South Point art gallery
SOUTH POINT, Ohio — Come spring, the Marshall University Community will be celebrating the amazing public art of full-time artist and MU art professor emeritus Robert Hutton.
At 80 years young, he has created a truly stunning 13-foot-long and 7 1/2-foot high custom built and painted tile wall mural created in memory of the Marshall Lab School which will be installed on campus to honor the unique Lab School that was in operation from 1896 to 1970.
To complete the gargantuan task of making from scratch 440 irregular shaped puzzle piece tiles has been a project three and a half years in the making for Robert and his wife Robin, who slab-rolled, bisque-fired, glazed, glazedfired, painted and hand-painted each piece.
Finished in June 2018, the arduous project was such that you would think the Huttons would have spent the rest of the year resting at the beach. But they were just getting the art party started.
With the massive tile project finished on June 30, 2018, the couple immediately turned their attention to their daughter Rachael Hutton Barker’s former home at the entrance of their driveway, and began transforming it into the just-opened Hutton Wayfarer Gallery, which is a 13-minute drive from downtown Huntington tucked in a hollow in the hills of South Point.
The two-story white house with green shutters that Robert’s brother built in 1979 may look like a regular country home on the outside, but it truly is a gallery in every sense on the inside.
With track lighting and fresh painted white walls, Hutton’s wildly diverse works bring life to every available wall in the themed rooms. There’s 43 paintings downstairs (not counting his painted tile works) and about 30 upstairs.
The Huttons did most of the work themselves, from stripping old plaster and patching the walls to painting the walls gallery white. They did hire an electrician to install the gallery track lighting for the studio, which had a soft opening between Christmas and New Year’s.
“We did most everything else and it finally came around after months of effort and we started filing it up slowly,” Hutton said. “Right now it has a real range of different things.”
Downstairs and beyond the cast-iron “Earth Stove” is a watercolor painting from the 1980s — The Wayfarer — that was the inspiration for naming the gallery. Paired with “The Messenger,” another painting in that series, “The Wayfarer” journeys forward with his heart ablaze.
And indeed, the gallery does chart the passion-filled wayfaring art journey of Hutton, a Pittsburgh native and graduate of both Carnegie Mellon University and Penn State, who taught art at Marshall for 29 years before retiring in 1999.
Selecting works from different eras, the Wayfarers Gallery is filled with pieces that span mostly from 1975 to 2015 — although there are 30 to 40 of the round tile paintings Hutton began doing in the past couple years as a side to his main tile project.
Inside the two story art gallery, there are black and white figurative drawings, acrylic landscapes, small clay and bronze sculptures, tiles, art prints, art cards and 1970s vintage fantasy stone lithographs and captivating watercolors galore.
There are originals, prints and in the Cathedral Room, a window-filled back room on the first floor with exposed beams, there are also art cards as well for purchase.
Additionally, the gallery will hold special monthly events that will feature guest artists and their work. Groups and school field trips are welcome as well to schedule an appointment.
“I really enjoy doing things where I don’t know exactly what I am going to do, just art out and see where it takes me and let the colors and the shapes emerge/′ Hutton said about the works in the Cathedral Room. “I guess it is sort of semi-conscience where you work from within rather than looking at something and sitting there painting it. I do look at things but then I go home and sort of absorb what I did. Then I start painting. I like the freedom of being able to alter the colors and alter the shapes and letting it speak to me in the process.”
An easy wall to miss unless pointed out is the Stairwell, which has three of Hutton’s detail-rich mid-1970s made stone lithograph prints made with an 800-pound press using a process that dates back to the 1880s.
“I started drawing on stones and printing on paper. The most detailed one is probably ‘Unannounced Departure,’ that was one of the ones that was in a show at the National Academy of Design in New York,” Hut-ton said. “I did very meticulous work for a while and then I started doing freer things.”
Hutton said that mid 70s foray into stone lithography lasted about two years.
“It seems like a miracle that I was able to do it technically and get it right/′ Hutton said with a laugh. “I worked about two years with that and then I just abruptly quit. I have two stones that I have images on them that have been on there for like 35 years. I never printed them but they say you can’t print them after endless time.”
Upstairs, The Sunset Room holds some of his thousands of improvised drawings he has made through the years.
Even the Hallway is loaded with evocative works — a series of prints of watercolors of the Biblical Parables in 1979 painted by Hutton, who knows those stories well.
At age 20, Hutton spent five years with the Catholic missionary order, Society of the Divine Word, in New York and Illinois, before a painting class at the Chicago Art Institute, steered him back to his childhood love of art. It also brought him back to his hometown of Pittsburgh, where he received a scholarship to attend Carnegie Mellon where he would get a B.F.A. in painting in 1968.
The watercolors continue upstairs in The Sunrise Room that is filled with his works in watercolors, an art form he taught for 29 years from 1970 to 1999.
“When you teach something you tend to get excited or interested in it, plus you want to be sure you can do what you are talking about so you do a lot of experimenting and testing, and exploring of media, so I have spent many years in water colors,” Hutton said. “I like the media — it is very fluid and fast. You can capture an effect in a short period, whereas oils tend to be more laborious. Watercolor is a real pleasure for me, and you can rely on accidents as well, especially in landscape. You can start out and let the paint start doing things. I painted this with those little grubby brushes from Wal-Mart and it was actually fun to do and gave me textures that I would not normally generate.”
Whether it is grabbing the cheapest pack of watercolor brushes to experiment with or creating from scratch that jaw-dropping Marshall Lab School mural out of 440 puzzle pieces, Hutton said his life-long journey as an artist is one that relies on experimentation. It is his wayfarer’s mind out on a path his own looking for what can be found on a new journey and discovering what possibly lies around the bend.
“Experimentation is very important I enjoy generating new kinds of images and trying different things than I have ever tried before. In order to do that you have to be willing to fail. If you are too uptight and committed to success you will never take those risks,” Hutton said. “Sometimes I feel guilty because there is so much variety of the things I do, but there is a quotation from Picasso in which he said ’I have no style, God has no style/That gave me a new freedom, if God has no style I can do what I want. Even when I taught college there were freshmen and sophomores who felt obligated to have a consistency in their work — that is sort of constricting. I like to say, well, I made all of these. That is the constant denominator.”
IF YOU GO TO THE WAYFARER GALLERY
WHAT: Hutton Wayfarer Gallery featuring nearly 100 works of art from area artist Robert Hutton
WHERE: 52 Private Drive, 250, County Road 144, South Point, Ohio.
WHO: Robert P. Hutton, MU Art Faculty Emeritus, who taught a variety of studio art courses for 29 years (1970-99), has been a full-time professional artist creating art in his two-story Hutton Art Studios and exhibiting his work in galleries and museums for 20 years since retiring from teaching.
Nationally and regionally, Hutton’s work has been exhibited in numerous juried and invitational exhibitions, as well as several solo shows. Selected exhibitions include work in the NY National Academy of Design, Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition, the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia.
Hutton also had a solo retrospective for the first Curator’s Choice Exhibition at the Huntington Museum of Art, along with a solo exhibition and gallery talk at Clayspace Gallery 831, in Columbus, Ohio.
SPECIAL EVENTS AT WAYFARER GALLERY: The first 2019 Hutton Wayfarer Gallery special event is an “MU Art Dept. Reunion” set for 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16. There will be a gallery talk and studio tour at 3 p.m. The Huttons are seeking contacts for former art students from Robert’s tenure, along with past and present MU art faculty.
CONTACT: To send the Huttons your information, schedule an appointment, or get directions, contact the gallery through Robert Hutton (South Point) Facebook page or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.