In addition to bird-men, Robert Lostutter began depicting orchid-men as another hybrid of human figures and the natural world in the 1970s. Miltonia (in the title) refers to a genus of orchid in the language of taxonomy; the word orchid comes from the Greek for testicle. Orchids have long been associated with eroticism and deception because the species uses the seductive power of color, form and scent to achieve its reproductive ends. It has a nickname among horticulturists: “sex-on-a-stick.” In the 1980s Lostutter joined the American Orchid Society, and collected orchids.
Like the bird-men, these figures are naked and have distinct, even exaggerated, characteristics: muscular, strong-necked and exotic in their features, their gaze is usually oblique, but still tense and alert. Moreover, this imagery iterates the theme of an entrapped figure—usually males in bondage—that permeates Lostutter’s work. (See Smart Museum 1998.64, 2001.302, 2004.7, 2001.302.) Here the device of entrapment is a surreal combination of animated hybrid limbs seeking to restrain and penetrate the figure. The image evokes a sense of the ruthlessness of nature that humans take for granted in the worlds of flora and fauna.
Fellow Chicago Imagist Christina Ramberg explored female bondage with a similarly intense focus. (Smart Museum 2001.661-662.)