Born in 1951 in Asheville, North Carolina, Donald Sultan rose to prominence in the 1980's as a painter and draftsman of subjects such as lemons and flowers. The work of Donald Sultan is voluminous and varied.
Since his first one-man show, he has enjoyed a distinguished career as painter, printmaker, and sculptor. His extensive body of work has placed him at the forefront of contemporary art, where he has become best known for his ability to successfully merge the best of yesterday's artistic tradition with a fresh, modern approach that is unique.
His still-lifes have been described as studies in contrast. Powerfully sensual, fleshy objects are rendered through a labor-intensive and unique method.
Instead of canvas, Sultan works on masonite covered with 12-inch vinyl floor tiles. The tiles dictate the format: one-foot squares, eight-foot squares, or four-foot squares. Sultan cuts the shapes he desires into the vinyl, fills in the cutout space with plaster and/or tar, and then paints over it. These multiple layers create the texture and subsequent richness. Although his paintings fit into the criteria of a still life, Sultan describes these works as first and foremost abstract.
The largeness of Sultan's compositions, huge pieces of fruit, flowers, dominoes and other objects, may be set against a stark, unsettling tar-black background and tend to dominate the viewer. He is best known for his lemons and fruit, but has stated that his subjects develop from previous work. The oval of his lemons has led him to a series of oval-blossomed tulips, and dots from dice that have become oranges. Sultan's work incorporates basic geometric and organic forms, and his images are weighty, with equal emphasis on both negative and positive areas.
Sultan describes his work as "heavy structure, holding fragile meaning" with the ability to "turn you off and turn you on at the same time."
1951 - Born in Asheville, North Carolina
1973 - B.F.A. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
1975 - M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois
1978/1979 - Creative Artists Public Service Grant, New York
1980/1981 - State national Endowment for the Arts
2000 - Honorary Doctorate, The Corcoran School of Art, Washington, D.C.
2002 - Honorary Doctorate, New York Academy of Art