William S. Dutterer was an artist’s artist—the classic dedicated artist, or, as Jack Rasmussen, Director of the Katzen Museum put it, he was “the real deal.”1 As a painter, Dutterer grew and changed, working for decades with little public recognition. He did not paint traditional subjects and was not constrained to stick to a single genre, and as a result, his commercial success suffered. Perhaps he was just too original, too creative.
He was, however, a true success by his own measure:
Art for me is like a patchwork quilt – some periods of work are somber, some loose & lyrical. At the end of it all, if I have been true to myself, my work, what I feel for myself, what I think it takes to make a work of art, my body of work should come out a unified whole like a good quilt made of many patches of varying color.
Dutterer, indeed, left a varied yet deeply coherent body of work. He also left a rich legacy with the artists he knew, the hundreds of students he taught, the collectors who bought his work, the customers he met and the tradesmen and professionals he worked with daily. He died January 5, 2007.
Around 1980, Dutterer began a chronology of sorts about himself:
Born Bastille Day 1943 Hagerstown Md. only child –
- My father worked on the railroad (the Pennsy).
- My mother hated Hagerstown.
- They built the Hagerstown speedway across the road from our house in 46/47. I’ve loved racing ever since.
- When I was 3 a car rolled over in our front yard & a person was laying on the ground with her eyeball beside her & my father was eating Vienna sausage at the time & he hated Vienna sausage forever since.
- Because of my mother’s stay in the hospital, I went to W.Va to stay with aunts, uncles, cousins & grandmother. A habit I maintained until 16 & future shock. The time spent here with sane folk the most positive in my life.
- Remember the Korean War & being afraid of having The Bomb dropped on me.
- At 4, embarrassed the whole family at dinner by asking what was on Clyde Holtzapple’s arms & tattooing was explained & why I should never ever get one & I wanted one ever since.
- Went to Catholic school 1st 3 yrs & was one of 5 or 6 students in the whole school who were protestant.
- Learned to shoot pool at 7.
- Went to public school at 8.
- Discovered Rock & Roll at 11/12. Loved to dance; still do. Elvis Presley most important roll model.
- Played clarinet from 8 until 18. Was better at pin ball.
- Got my 1st box of paint on Xmas 11.
- Grandmother & aunts full of lore & horror stories.
- School a bore.
- Slow reader.
- Got glasses 12.
- School still a bore & still a slow reader.
- Uncle’s farm sold & radio observatory built & black holes in space discovered – future shock.
- Got my driver’s license.
- Pinstriped a lot of cars.
- Did a lot of photo.
- Decided art school better alternative than Navy – Photography.
- 1961 glad Hi school over.
- Went to Md. I. A. 1961-1962. Flunked history & English 2nd semester.
- Decided not to major in photo – went into Teacher Ed. – flunked all Ed courses.
- Merchant Marine or paint.
- BFA 1965.
- Almost drafted 1964.
Almost went to Canada.
- Went to grad school MIA.
Went to Europe.
- MFA 1967.
- To D.C. 67 – Corcoran.
- D.C. Burns 68.
- Antiwar demo.
- Got married.
- Got divorced.
- Loved the community sense of thrashing & hog slaughtering as a kid.
- Loved guns & hunting as a kid but never shot bunnies & sold all my guns at 19.
- My father was killed in an auto accident when I was 19. That catharsis a major reason for commitment to art.
- Remember when people got telephones for the 1st time in 1953.
- Loved Balt. Burlesque shows pie in the face stripper comics.
- Love to have my preconceived notions blown out of the water or supported.
- Almost thrown out of a WASP McCarthy-inspired High School for reading subversive beatnik poetry.
- Love to be alone.
- Went through the desert in Aug 1969. Have never been back . . . . Want to go back in the spring.
- Knew an old man, BO Woods, as a child. BO did not believe in airplanes.
- Love to ride motorcycles. Took therapeutic bike trip to Canada & was run over by Messr. Le Oldsmobile.
- Used to drink a lot of whiskey.
- Don’t drink a lot of whiskey anymore.
- Never was a hippie.
- Read a lot of Huxley, Leary & DeAlpert
- Very insecure about my “Hill Billy” origins.
- Not insecure about my “Hill Billy” origins now.
- Love to go bird watching.
- Love to have my senses assaulted.
- Pornography arouses my prurient interests.
- Scared of bats.
- Hated country music as a kid.
- Love country music now.
- Love music of all kinds now but opera still baffles me.
- Know of at least 6 other lives.
- Have had strong ESP experiences in my aunt’s house.
- Aunt Beulah believes in reincarnation.
- Uncle George a stoic Indian.
- Uncle Dorr’s brain dissolved from red dye in cheap wine.
- Uncle Charles took me to my 1st gangster movie, 1st bar & gave me 1st beer; let me drive 1st time & generally spoiled me rotten. He was a lifer in the army.
- Cousin Jr. lifer in the army & Green Beret psycho warrior. Have the best relationship with him of most anyone in the family.
- Discovered H. L. Menckin’s writing in B’more.
- Discovered E. A. Poe’s grave up the street from my studio & used to have lunch there with winos.
- Sorry the Avant Garde died.
- Heroes – I still have them –
[Got married again]
- Sold my motorcycle in 1978 & got loaded for a week.
- Heroines – I still have them.
- Hated to read until I was 27.
- I was in the blue reading group.
- Sold the Firebird in 79 & got loaded for 2 days.
- Moved to N.Y. in 1979 & love it.
- They have terrific races in N.J.
- Got tattooed in Seattle 1973 1st time.
- Acting out such a long-lived fantasy blows your mind.
- Never wanted another tattoo.
- Am a MASH junky.
- Love to dance.
- Am very comfortable with musicians.
- Have burned out on films (I’ve seen 3 in the past 4 yrs)
- Showed some work in Europe in 74 & it was another long-lived fantasy that blew my mind.
- Don’t want to be burned out on film.
- Love makeup.
- Love sensory overload
- Love the quilt.
- Hate church.
- Saw Mike Bakaty’s tattoo work in 1978.
- Got tattooed again.
- Tattooing can be a right of passage!
- Tattooing can be a catalyst.
Dutterer never finished this impromptu biography.
1 Rasmussen, Jack. “Introduction.” In True Dutterer, Page 3. The Katzen American University Museum, 2007.