Interview with Christy Wittmer

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
As an artist I’ve had the opportunity to live and make work in different places through study abroad programs and artist residencies. Currently I am an Artist in Residence at the Lawrence Arts Center in Lawrence, KS. The way I work and what I make is shaped by the different environments in which I work, as well as by artists with whom I collaborate.  One of the most important skills I have acquired is the ability to adapt to my environment, staying limber and open to challenges and opportunities and finding ways to make work within the limitations of the environment I am in.

Many of my sculptures begin as experiments with the materials at hand. I ask, “What happens when…?” and the work created becomes the answer. Then I curate the objects created from these experiments into sculptures.  With simple gestures, stacking, arranging, balancing, I am aiming for a kind of tenuous stability that engages body awareness, and incites curiosity and a desire to investigate the nuances of color, texture and material. I want to set up a scenario where there is a bit of a push and pull of wanting to get a closer look but not wanting to knock anything over. By combining found objects with handmade, manufactured, and natural forms I create sculptures that evoke horizons, peaks, valleys and industry. They allude to the human imprint evident within the landscape and allow space for the viewer’s imagination to linger, for exploration and places of possible discovery.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
I typically adapt my work to the available tools and materials. Recently, it’s been the clay extruder. I’m using it to extrude coils of clay that I stack, drape, build up and wrap like rope. The coils hang and slump. Gravity is evident in the forms which creating tension or resignation.  I’m just experimenting right now. I’m not sure if it will go anywhere, but I’m having fun with it.

What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them?
Finding enough focused time to work is my biggest obstacle right now. My studio is in a semi-public space. With practice I’m getting better at focusing in the midst of many distractions and being productive in smaller chunks of time.

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?
Balance, tension, environment, discovery

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?
Balance, tension, environment, discovery

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to?
Currently I’m looking at the work of Arlene Shechet and Erin Shirreff and also design especially product design and architecture.

Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)?
Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis are professors at the University of Cincinnati where I did my graduate work. Being an artist takes persistence and hard work, and they are constantly working. They don’t really slow down. As a graduate student it was important for me to see that level of perseverance, to know that’s what it takes. They set a great example for their students as they are always preparing for a show.

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given?
Say “yes” to everything.