The terms photorealism, superrealism, and southern pop have all been used to describe Glennray Tutor’s paintings. His precise renderings of everyday objects are infused with an almost fantastic aura of light and color, giving his paintings a sense of wonder. Born in Kennett, Missouri, on 25 August 1950, Tutor earned both bachelor of fine arts and master of fine arts degrees from the University of Mississippi in the mid-1970s. He settled in Oxford and became a full-time painter, working in acrylic, oil, and charcoal and in printmaking.
As if in contemporary dialogue with the still lifes of seventeenth-century Dutch masters, Tutor’s work focuses on capturing an arrangement of everyday objects but saturates them with twenty-first-century color. His overall style has been called hyperrealistic, though Tutor’s painting technique itself is most closely associated with photorealism: he re-creates, in exact detail, subjects unmarked by brushstroke or abstraction. This precision removes any seam or tip-off to Tutor’s technical process, yet the color clearly skews the work as fantastic. Mississippi writer Barry Hannah compared the final effect to “life after a glaucoma operation. Only [Tutor] could grab the color and the light and the spirit of life out of the stream of the usual.”
Small, common emblems of everyday life in the South are the frequent subjects of Tutor’s paintings. He is noted for his ability to give new meaning to these familiar sights. Tutor explains, “The subject matter is not something I have to go and find. It is something I experienced by living in the South and always have experienced. These are subjects around me and have an importance to me.” His paintings often include household items, such as toys, mason jars filled with pickled vegetables, fireworks, and the like. The composition of the pieces themselves is crucial to the feel of each painting, from the beam of planet-like colored marbles atop black-and-white newspaper comics to the squadron of firecracker airplanes whose nosecone fuses face off in a circle. As part of his process, Tutor takes multiple photographs of his arrangements, then both under- and overexposes a series of prints, allowing him access to the nuances of light and shadow. From these representations he flushes the work with color, overloading the natural hues.
Tutor credits his early love of comic books and book jackets for spurring his interest in visual work. Appropriately, his paintings have appeared as a number of book illustrations, including covers for books by Hannah and Larry Brown and for the University Press of Mississippi. His early paintings evolved from abstractions to idea-laden landscapes of the Mississippi Delta. He won first place in his initial exhibition, the 1975 Mississippi Arts Festival.
Tutor’s work has since been featured in solo and group exhibitions in New York, Santa Fe, Nashville, Los Angeles, Jackson, and elsewhere, and is included in collections at Georgia’s Morris Museum of Art, the University of Mississippi, and galleries throughout the region. In 2000 Tutor’s paintings were included alongside works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Chuck Close, and others as part of the internationally touring Outward Bound: American Art at the Brink of the Twenty-First Century exhibition.
- Patti Carr Black, Art in Mississippi, 1720–1980 (1998)
- Patti Carr Black, The Mississippi Story (2007)
- Glennray Tutor website, www.glennraytutor.com