Garner Tullis Biography

Garner Tullis




Printmaker, painter, and sculptor Garner Handy Tullis was born on December 12, 1939, in Cincinnati, Ohio. One of three children born to industrialist and civic leader Richard Barclay Tullis and painter Chaille Handy, Garner was exposed to the arts from an early age. He earned his BA in Studio Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963, followed and his BFA in 1964 from their fine arts graduate program. There he studied under Barnett Newman, Luis Kahn, Jacques Lipchitz, Robert Motherwell, David Smith, Emilio Vedova, and others. He focused primarily on monotype printmaking but also worked in bronze sculpture, encaustic painting, and experimental film. He was granted a Fulbright Commission scholarship to study in Florence, Italy, an excursion he took following graduation and which led to a Fulbright Extension and Travel Grant to travel throughout Europe. Upon his return to the U.S. he entered Stanford University on a Carnegie Fellowship (M.A., 1967), studying under Nathan Oliveira and Arnoldo Pomodoro. 

Early experiments with printmaking produced highly textured works that walked the line between collography and sculpture, there was some debate about what category he fell into as an artist. However, Tullis himself rejected labels and simply considered himself an experimental artist. According to Fred Anderson in his review of the book Garner Tullis and the Art of Collaboration (David Carrier, New York, NY, 1998), "His aim was that of a man who wanted to free printmaking the way New York School freed painting in the 1960s." His passion for taking the paper medium to new heights led to his work in plaster cast paper sculptures, and he frequently created portraits using this method.

Tullis served in the Vietnam War with the covert, CIA-operated Air America airline. After his discharge he returned to art, though he would continue to be involved with U.S. security agencies and the military throughout his life. In 1972 he founded the International Institute of Experimental Printmaking, a workshop that took various forms in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and finally New York through 1984, when he handed it over to his son, Richard. It attracted such artists as Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Dorothea Rockburne, and many other artists emerging from the Abstract Expressionist scene and into the Post Modernist movement. It focused on large-scale monotype collaborations with artists such as William T. Wiley and Sean Scully, Charles Arnoldi, among others. These works were sometimes printed on Tullis' own handmade paper.

By the early 1980s he was dividing his time between the United States and the Marche region of Italy, where he purchaed a 15th century farmhouse and set up a studio. He took teaching positions at Bennington College, California State University at Stanislaus, University of California at Berkeley and Davis, as well as Harvard University. In addition to printmaking, painting, and sculpture, Tullis found inspiration in the wax emulsion painting technique known as "encaustic", which he had briefly studied in the early 1960s. Having begun to pursue and teach the technique in downtown New York prior to the events of September 11, 2001, the attacks left him unable to continue his work in the U.S. Later that year he permanently relocated to Urbino, Italy, where he fully immersed himself in encaustic painting. It would prove to be his primary medium for the rest of his life. He died in Urbino, Marche on December 5, 2019. 

Garner Tullis' work is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, NY; Cleveland Art Museum, OH; the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA. He was a member of the Print Club of Cleveland which honored him with the first Ralph T. King Award for Outstanding Contributions to Printmaking. 

Selected exhibitions:
The Print Club of Philadelphia, "Five Printmakers" (n/d; ca. 1960); Tiffany Museum, Charlottesville, MD (solo; n/d; ca. 1962); Cleveland Museum of Art, "The May Show", 1963; Galleria La Cologne, Florence, Italy (n/d; ca. 1965); Cleveland Museum of Art, "The May Show", 1966 (First Prize); Il Castellare, Urbino, Italy, 2009 (retrospective).