Monday, August 20, 2007
Interview: February 2007
1. You graduated from Marymount College with a BA in French language and literature. Your MA is from Central Connecticut State University in French poetry, and then you went on to earn a BFA from Corcoran College of Art and Design. Recently, you've stated art that is your passion; a very good friend that never leaves. Tell us about the juxtaposition of continuing education, French literature, fine art, friendship, printmaking, and painting.
Witschonke: All these aspects of my life led me to who I am today and to what I choose to express through art. Languages and how words are used to express ideas can be a parallel art form, not just a means of communication. For me, whatever medium I choose to use becomes a vocabulary of expression and communication. Just as I use languages to explore meaning and expression, I use painting, printmaking, and encaustic to visually explore and express meaning. Art has been my friend since I can remember. It has taught me things I needed to know and consoled me at times when a constant friend was needed.
2. Can you speak to the challenges and the rewards of being a full-time freelance artist? How do you divide your time between making art and selling art?
Witschonke: Being a studio artist is what I have chosen to do full time. It takes lots of time and the monetary rewards are minimal compared to the efforts put forth, but I get to do something I really love. I work in my painting studio in Arlington, or in Printmakers Inc. at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria. I rarely sell my work myself; I prefer to use galleries or art spaces. This allows me maximum studio time. Doing this of course means usually paying large commissions to the selling agent but then I don’t have to do both jobs. I do have a website at http://www.carolyn4art.com/.
3. Being fairly well-traveled and having lived in Germany with adventures throughout Europe, what are some of the subtler ways travel, journey, location, and exposure to European masters helped shape your current work?
Witschonke: My European experiences directly influenced my art, especially printmaking. In my earlier work, the European style of painting and aesthetic is, I believe, evident. Vermeer and Degas especially influenced me. Seeing the various cultures and how people and their mores ultimately manifested into the art and culture of the times influences me even today. The history, myths, and traditions all contribute to my ideas and what I choose to do in my artistic expression.
4. As an oil painter and print maker, your recent work focuses on interconnectivity, choice making, and universality of humanity. How do you best bridge the gap between the artist's vision and communicating that vision for juries, competitions, award venues, and the general public?
Witschonke: In my latest show in the Solo Artist Gallery in the Art League, this very subject was its content. With a title and brief artist statement I like to introduce the viewer to my concept. After that, I hope the viewers’ own experiences will enable them to interpret and appreciate my efforts. In creating this series, I was careful to choose materials, and in most cases, colors that have significance enough to support and express my ideas.
5. What major differences do you find between exhibiting in '00 at the Newport Museum of Art in Newport, RI; the '98 - '99 show at the Resurgum Gallery in Baltimore; and the '00 exhibition in the Bridge Gallery of Dublin, Ireland?
Witschonke: As far as exhibiting in these venues, mainly the logistics presented the most challenges - particularly shipping... very practical aspects.
6. When you call to mind the great printmakers throughout time, who most inspires you? Of living artists in the DC area today, who do you expect to see rapidly rise in the art world?
Witschonke: The printmaker that has most inspired me is Jim Dine. As for DC, there are so many fine artists who don’t get much recognition because they are not well known.
7. Your collections span the Library of Congress, The National Institute of Health, and the Philip Morris Companies (quite divergent enterprises). What responsibilities do artists have in monitoring where, when, and how work is exhibited and to what end their personal ideology allows for commercialism?
Witschonke: If my art is purchased for a collection and is bought for its own sake I don’t discriminate buyers. As far as doing commission work directly related to a cause or enterprise, it is up to the individual artist to decide.
8. Can you tell us a little about growing up in the small town of Litchfield, Connecticut, and your journey to becoming an artist (how you shifted to art, when you knew you wanted to "art," how it was sharing that vision with family, how it's been to realize the vision, what you're looking to accomplish in ‘07)?
Witschonke: I’ve been lucky. Even though I loved art and did art sporadically as a child, the fine arts were not encouraged as a profession. I studied violin for many years but when it came time to make a career decision, I chose teaching with the concentration in French. I had many youthful and idealistic ambitions. I married at 23 and moved to Germany. Inspired by the setting the need to do art resurfaced. Through the years as a military wife I was able to take many art classes, travel, and visit museums until I ultimately earned a BFA from the Corcoran College of Art and Design. Even though my parents did not support art as a career choice, they were artistic and creative people. Both of my sisters are artistic as well; one works with textiles, weaving and quilting and the other is a painter. It is wonderful to have them to share my art with. My husband has been very supportive of me, especially on two pivotal occasions, the first when I decided to abandon my teaching and concentrate on art and the second when I wanted to attend art school full time and earn a degree. For 2007 I will continue to expand the Passages series as well as print and continue a series in encaustic; From Line to Shape.
9. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is credited with having said, "You come to nature with all her theories, and she knocks them all flat." Can you speak to your interpretation or experience with this theme?
Witschonke: Ah, nature, the wonders of it. The inconsistencies of it supply us with its mysteries and keep us intrigued and guessing.
10. Your love for nature, trees, and flowers, using a variety of mediums and techniques, is well catalogued in your works. It is true today there are a variety of opinions about the reality and the growing concern of global warming, environmental health, and the necessity to save mother Earth. Do you view your work as chronicles of these politics, and if so, how? What differences would you like to effect?
Witschonke: My work is not political. The environment is extremely important to me but does not constitute political commentary in my work. My love of nature comes from more of a spiritual and philosophical basis.
11. Carolyn, what new or inventive art related non-profits are you involved in? We are always interested in highlighting causes using art to achieve goals. Lastly, if you could be director of the National Gallery (or other DC National Museum) for one day - what immediate change(s) would you implement? If you couldn't create art, what would you do instead?
Witschonke: I am not directly involved in any innovative non-profits. Printmakers Inc is my closest involvement. Participating with this group at the Torpedo Factory enables me to make myself directly available to the public, informing them about original printmaking processes and art. Having children’s groups and tours are especially rewarding. Many schools are limiting students’ exposure to art and this is an exciting way to stimulate their interest. I really don’t know anything about running a museum so I wouldn’t be able to make a productive change. If I couldn’t create art... hmmm... I am not sure that’s possible!
Posted by shauna lee lange at Monday, August 20, 2007