Celebrating A Way with Words

This past weekend I celebrated the success of an amazing friend and writer- Christa Fraser.  She will soon be heading off to finish her novel(s).  We got a synopsis of the books and few paragraphs read aloud.  Wow.  Wow. Wow. Listening to her, I wanted to underline the words and dog-ear pages to repeat them over and over.  I can’t wait until she finishes the two projects and I can devour and share them.

I would like to quote my KHN poet pal, FAVORITE art buddy (and ice cream buddy) Jee Leong Koh “All art is an abstraction from reality. Reality to my eyes appears chaotic, monotonous, empty. Art gives it form, color and meaning. Both figurative and abstract art do this, and so are more profoundly closer in their work than apart. I am especially drawn to art that works at the boundary of figuration and abstraction. That is why Henri Matisse is my favorite artist. He does not escape into naturalism or minimalism but holds them in tension, loving the world and changing the art.”  Matisse isn’t my favorite, but I can relate so much to Jeong’s reasoning behind his reaction to him.

One more fabulous quotation from Jeong: “Definitions are a small halt at a brief station.”  (read the whole interview here.)


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“I believe…” statement

I believe art has the power to unite people and spark dialog. If visual art is the visual history of ideas— how can one best make meaning out of the events in Ferguson?  I believe that many voices need to be heard, many viewpoints need to be shared and respected.  As an educator- I focus on cheer-leading and helping people to realize their own potential whether it be a skill-building drawing class or art appreciation.  Leadership is a responsibility for everyone and anyone.   I hope the community response stemming from the events in Ferguson, MO will give momentum to projects that give a voice and power to lead to a generation of people who feel forgotten. Instead of just hoping- I need to work towards that goal.  I very much miss the classroom- although I am filled with joy at getting to focus my time raising my own children.

I feel a huge sense of relief that my exhibition is installed- but a call to action as well.  (How can I get a bunch of communication talents together to help give a voice to this community?)  How can I help?   How can one inspire leadership?  How does one best share your talents and cultivate it in others?

I remember getting solace from Ayomi Yoshida‘s Yedoensis installation at the NIU Art Museum after the NIU school shooting.  Hearing the poems of Ted Kooser helped me feel connected to the world again.  I do think art has a place in healing and reconnecting us to the beautiful and helping us face the ugly- but I think cultivating others for leadership is perhaps a quicker way to be the change one wants to see.

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A line is not just a line

An art object’s meaning can change according to context.  When I originally conceived Memorial (needs Tending) in 2005 while in residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, the silicone was chosen to hold the shadow- to define what once was.  The chair was a surrogate for a body and/or mind ravaged by disease.  The need to be filled with water is the work involved in remembering the whole person. In light of the police shooting death of Micheal Brown on August 9, the ideas of Memorial (needs tending) seems even more poignant.  The silicone shadow now also reads as a chalk outline. I’ve been thinking a lot about a family who lost a son.  And the work involved to honor the memory of a life lost.

Jessica Witte. Memorial (Needs Tending) altered chair, silicone, plastic, water 2015-continuing

Jessica Witte.
Memorial (Needs Tending)
altered chair, silicone, plastic, water


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Waiting for a package…

I’ve been busy with sick kiddos and household duties— and waiting for silicone to dry and a package to arrive so I can finish up my exhibition installation.  silicone

I’m putting up all the artwork myself for this one (except for the tech support provided by Media Services and IT to get the computers and projectors,  in place- Thanks especially Duane, Elwood and Phil!)- so it’s been a large time investment.  I’m very grateful to have such a wonderful family to stay and help all of last week- I couldn’t have done this without their help- especially with all the schedule changes.  I hope my package arrives on time, so everything else can fall into place.


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Rain Rain Go Away

Waiting for silicone to dry…rain is not helping cure time.

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Sing Along to the Bouncing Ball

Kurt Perschke's Red Ball Project  Photo by Yu-Cheng Hsiao.

Kurt Perschke’s Red Ball Project
Photo by Yu-Cheng Hsiao.

I have been looking for a few images of Kurt Perschke’s RedBall Project as an example of ephemeral art.  I found this wonderful interview on The Artist Guide.  Kurt gave me the most helpful critique of my work while at NIU about a decade ago.  He gave me wise advice about controlling my work and it’s meaning. How can I make the work so it only “talks” about the ideas I want to discuss?  I still use this question to guide my artwork and efforts.  The RedBall is still traveling the world (and Kurt with it), and I have a new website to look to for inspiration. All good things.

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Install/Prep Day 5

Well, this morning began strong- but the Memorial (Needs Tending) shadow ripped in the middle of packing up… meaning I have to start another one ASAP and work to prevent the same thing from happening.  We are now on a Plan C timeline for this work- good thing I have some lead time until the show officially opens.  I will be working on the possible workshop powerpoint today and gathering all the supplies for the gallery attendants to maintain the works over the course of the show.  So much for being nearly done late this morning.

back to square one

back to square one





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Radio Interview and the Art of Maintenance

Sam Koleman from Flo Valley’s Campus Radio interviewed me today.  Koleman’s enthusiasm made me excited to work with students again- I hope the ephemeral art workshop with students I proposed will come about.

I  am very moved by the images of volunteers coming to clean up after the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.  They are a beautiful expression of the invisible work of maintenance- it’s not glamorous, but it shows care for others. Check out the NPR stories here and here.

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Install Day Three

I have a few loose ends to attend to… but the good news is the time-lapse drawing is complete.  I can breathe a sigh of relief— downloading now.  Time to celebrate (cue Marquis dancing)!

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Install Day 2


Progress being made on Sun + Gravity.

Day 2 is over in the gallery and beginning in the garage- I’ll be making a mold for the silicone shadow tonight.   I battled a migraine on the way home, and am hoping I can fend another one off until at least the weekend.  Thank God for grandparents, so I can attend to my to do list and just worry about feeding dinner and baths.

One artwork is completely ready and lit, and the others are all underway except for the drawing.  I got some great help getting projectors set- and just have a few computer and cord glitches to solve.  The height of the projection made me have to rethink my plan.  The effect was worth the effort- I would have been unhappy with my original plan.  Speaking of getting happier- I know understand my father’s love of zip ties.  And I missed the best part of install yesterday- helper Marquis Stewart’s celebration dance after each part of the movable walls was assembled.  That still makes me smile.  I’ll have to bring in some of that energy into the gallery tomorrow.


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