Traditional Materials, Modernist Sensibilities

There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual.

Contemporary realism figurative art
Lee Hutt, “Abstracted,” 2007, hydrocal, 22 x 18 x 18 in. Collection of the artist

LEE HUTT (b. 1957) has a diverse educational background that is the backbone of her eclectic art-making. She first studied painting in Belgium, where her love of the classical tradition began. She went on to receive a master’s degree in science from Columbia University, where she was privy to forward-thinking philosophy and psychology. While in New York City, Hutt took classes at the New School and was strongly influenced by the modernist art of Jacob Lawrence and Chaim Gross.

Like any good artist, Hutt combines all of the influences and ingredients from her past and present into artwork evolving toward her future. Her foundation and materials are traditional — figurative and portrait work created in clay and cast in bronze, plaster, or carbon steel — but her modernist and abstract sensibilities manifest in non-traditional subject matter. Her interest in psychology allows her to examine the sitter’s inner dialogue with empathy and intuition.

Hutt works primarily on gestural poses for her figure work, while her faces seem to fall into two categories: portraits of those she knows personally, and portraits that represent a universal. Without knowing much about the woman depicted in “Abstracted,” for instance, we can easily attach our own experiences to the model. Her nudity leaves no indication of time or place, and her traditional likeness creates a sense of familiarity. Following her gaze into the distance, we feel as if we recognize this woman whose essence has been expertly captured by Hutt.

“There is never one likeness,” the artist says while describing her process. “I dig for the strength and beauty I see and feel, and when the piece has the spirit, often in the eye, I know it is complete. I don’t know how it happens — I have no repeated pattern of working. It always seems spontaneous and to emerge from feelings about the subject and my dialogue with the clay.”

Connect with Lee Hutt at

This article was originally published in Fine Art Connoisseur magazine (March/April 2018).

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