School of Art and Design Alumni Exhibition 2021
Wellington B. Gray Gallery
Stephanie Statham Witchger
My work blends figurative and abstract elements in mixed media. I work with watercolor, graphite, paper, and thread. A slight change in pressure immediately shifts the mood of a pencil line. Gravity pulls a drip of paint down the surface. Watercolor washes move in like fog sweeping over a field. Every new mark changes the atmosphere, but traces of the paper’s original texture and earlier marks remain. I like this history that is never entirely hidden. I like the pace of these materials as well. Each requires a gradual building up, which deepens my immersion in the company of the subjects and the marks I am putting down. When I work with them, I gain and lose time at once.
A new piece begins with an element that catches my eye. Tiny mum blossoms stop me as I rush from the grocery store early some Sunday morning. A scrap of text cut from a catalog on rare books floats around my desk for years, continuing to resurface and ask for my attention. A friend shares a fragment of a poem in conversation that points me toward a particular color. One of these becomes an anchor, a starting place, and in the days and weeks ahead, a steady search unfolds. I look for additional things to bring in, companions for this original element, an arrangement that allows disparate subjects and marks to find their balance, settle into a new story. It comforts me to give these ordinary things a new order and celebrate them. I hope the person who takes time to look at my work will feel some hint of this care.
I see my work as an opportunity for reflection, a place to give quiet attention and deeper appreciation to ephemeral and unnoticed bits of life. I collect things from my everyday surroundings, then elevate them within a personal language of symbols. In these commonplace objects, I lock away the people, ideas, and moments I long to hold more closely. Even the inanimate vibrates with feeling, meanings, and questions. A skein of thread on the corner of my desk shifts scale, and suddenly I see a life, an infinity. Each work can act as an opening into a world for exploring these vibrations. Life is a tangle of questions I can’t seem to answer nor put aside. Feelings contradict and confound me. How do I hold together my joy and sorrow, my grief and gratitude, all this nothing and everything? It is in the tensions between these opposites that I find the force to work. And it is in this work that I search for my peace with these tensions.