Anita Witten and Susan Williams create multi-media work that thrives on found objects and unexpected materials.
Susan Williams chose mixed media collage as her means of artistic expression after studying and working in representational watercolors and abstract acrylics for many years. Collage has become her visual metaphor for memories, interpretations and ideas. Placing recognizable images in a new context, she combines all of her learned and intuitive methods of making art with her passion for texture, ephemera and reusing old things.
“Lately, my collection of antique photographs, ephemera, lace and booklets is my primary source of inspiration. I search handwritten notes and old snapshots for the personality they convey. I find subtle beauty in worn, discarded materials. I value these things as a visual bridge to the past, and I hope that the viewer will make that connection as well,” she says.
Susan’s method of creating her somewhat abstract collages starts with creating painted papers with acrylic media and various mark making materials and tools. She randomly applies paint and gesso to a large sheet of paper, adding layers of texture, pattern and color using brayers, stamps, combs, brushes, palette knives, plastic cards, stencils, bubble wrap and all sorts of discarded, recycled stuff. These papers are then cut and torn as needed in a collage. She uses canvas as a substrate, and begins by painting the surface with acrylics and gesso while attaching pieces of painted paper with acrylic gel matte medium. When creating her most recent series of work, she begins to design the piece by choosing a photograph or two and placing them on the canvas. Then she starts arranging antique ephemera such as old letters, photographs, scrapbook and autograph book pages, ledgers, sheet music, notebook and magazines pages, envelopes, cards, documents and the like. She also uses purchased art papers, vintage fabrics and lace. Some of the smaller pieces are first sewn together in layers with a sewing machine. To add marks to a collage, she employs colored pencils, oil pastels, ink and acrylic paint, as well as needle and thread. Changes are made by adding collage elements, and by covering areas with paint or fabric. Often when a collage is in the finishing stages, she will attach small buttons or hardware for added texture and dimension.
“I hope to create an interesting narrative for these old images and materials, to capture their poignancy, so that they are given a new life and a voice,” says Susan.
Anita Witten, an artist known regionally for her collage abstractions and assemblages has included dynamic and quiet multi-media pieces that push the envelope. “I hope viewers will free-associate on their own wave-length with joy and reflection,” she says. Recipient of a NYSCA award and long time plein air coach, Anita was one of the co-founders of the Valley Artisans Market in 1981.
Familiar to many, Witten’s work has been seen regionally at LARAC, Southern Vermont College, Albany Center Gallery and Institute of History & Art, Gallery 668, SUNY Adirondack, The Georgi, Redux, Camfield Galleries, as well as in Boston, New Hampshire, and Paris venues. Her work is also included in the UN and private collections. Following a career in publishing in NYC and studies at the Art Students League and Columbia University, she and her husband settled into country life on the Vermont/New York border. Their creative work thrived for over 35 years, including Witten Family Frames, while they enjoyed the mountains, museums and happily raised two sons.