Born in 1951 in Asheville, North Carolina, Sultan received his BFA at the University of North Carolina and his MFA at the University of Chicago. He moved to New York in 1975 and was given his first one-man show two years later. Although he has enjoyed a distinguished career as a printmaker and sculptor, he is best known for his large, abstract still lifes. The simple geometric and organic forms give weight to his eight-by-eight depictions of lemons and other fruit set against a black tar background. His cropped forms and strong contrast force the viewer to discard preconceived notions about traditional representational still lifes. Dubbed a New Image Painter, he often incorporates materials found in architecture, such as asphalt, linoleum, and plaster. Sultan describes his work as "heavy structure, holding fragile meaning" able to "turn you off and turn you on at the same time."