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DM Witman Interview

photo-eye Gallery DM Witman Index Interview Anne Kelly and DM Witman We are thrilled to introduce DM Witman and her project "Index", a series of gum bichromate photograms, to the Photographers Showcase. To provide some insight into Witman and her work, we are pleased to introduce this new work along with an interview with the artist.

#00141 Verbena hastata, 2018, Unique photogram, Rives BFK, gouache, gum arabic, kitakata, ink, 23k gold leaf, 29x23 in. framed, $1250

We are thrilled to introduce DM Witman and her project Index, a series of gum bichromate photograms, to the Photographers Showcase. To provide some insight into Witman and her work, we are pleased to introduce this new work along with an interview with the artist. In this interview, artist DM Witman and Gallery Director Anne Kelly delve into the connection between art and science, Witman's creative process, grants — and more.

Anne Kelly: Does wonder play a role in the making of your work

DM Witman: Wonder does play a part in my creative practice, in both the active and passive sense. I am someone who has a deep sense of curiosity and am constantly asking questions to help me understand the world around me. For me, the natural world abounds in wonder.

Generally, when I work, due to the nature of the materials and processes, the outcomes are not guaranteed. There is always a sense of “waiting to see what happens”. Now, that does not mean that the work is all due to magic, but there is a great deal of experimentation and being open to the results.

AK: You have degrees in both art and science. Do you feel that art and science have connective tissue?

DW: Art and science are deeply connected. Prior to the 20th century there was not as big as a distinction among interests — individuals attended the same salons to learn about new concepts, and new inventions, such as in painting, psychology, or about the human body. That has since changed and disciplinary boundaries abound. What was common then, is still common today — a sense of curiosity. Both art and science can be characterized by exploration, experimentation and discovery.  

#00106-2 Dryopteris spp. 2018, Unique photogram, Rives BFK, gouache, gum arabic, kitakata, ink, 23k gold leaf, 29x23 in. framed, $1250

AK: Index is a series of photograms. Can you please explain to our readers what a photogram is - and dive a bit into the chemical process and materials you have chosen to work with to create this series?

DM: A photogram is made when an object, or objects, are placed on the surface of light-sensitive materials, such as a piece of paper, or a piece of glass. Photograms can be made with many photographic processes, such as silver gelatin paper, cyanotypes, and as I have done with this series, with gum-bichromate.

With Index, I have coated large sheets of fine printmaking paper with a slurry of watercolor pigment and gum arabic mixed together with a light sensitizer. I repeated this step until the desired color and density is achieved for each sheet. Once, dried, the individual plants I collected were placed on top of the sensitized paper within a very large contact printing which would be set in the sun to expose the sensitized paper with the shape and details of the plants. Most days, I could make one to two pieces.

AK: Art often starts with a question. What question are you asking in this series?

DW: This work was born from my deeply personal experience with loss and grief. It was my attempt to grapple with a discovery about myself, that I had been experiencing grief due to ecological changes and loss, for many many months, unable to “make work. I was stuck. Collecting plants from the inter-tidal marsh along the river which I called home and have a deep connection and reverence with, was a bit of a reckoning that this place would change. And that many of the species would not tolerate the changes ahead — consistently higher water lines and higher tides, a greater salt content from Penobscot Bay, which is a few miles away. The reckoning was as much about a concern for the various plant species as it was an acknowledgment of how my actions, and those of humanity have induced these changes, for which for me, was a terrible amount of guilt. Perhaps the ultimate question for me involved an attempt to understand and process these feelings. I came to understand that I could move forward in the world, and in my life and my work, if I could make meaningful action(s). What could I do? Part of those actions meant holding space for these plants, which are often overlooked regarding conversations about the climate predicament.

#00105 Pontederia cordata. 2018, Unique photogram, Rives BFK, gouache, gum arabic, kitakata, ink, 23k gold leaf, 29x23 in. framed, $1250

AK: In your series Index, you are collecting and identifying plants that are not formally on the "endangered" list, but may be in the future. Do you see this work as a "call to action?"

DM: I certainly can see that. But for me at the time of making these objects, it was a way to both collect data and an act of memorializing the plants which are part of the way that I understand and connect to the natural world. The process allowed me to move forward to process what I was experiencing. And ultimately, a way for me to understand that I can continue in life by making meaningful actions to help the human and non-human species, no matter how small that action might seem in the scheme of it all.

AK: Do you feel that this series is in conversation with Anna Atkins' British Algee series?

DW: Anna Atkins has certainly been an influence on me as an artist. Her sensibilities and interest in botanical science, the naming of things, and sharing that with others. I’m sure she was interested in contributing to science and sharing this with others, which is I believe an intersection of the two bodies of work. However, I can only wonder if she considered that species might disappear due to human influence and impact back in the late 19th century. The works from Index are heavy, and there is a dimension to them, which is purposeful. They are objects, memorials, and of data — a baseline of a particular moment in the history of that place, along that river, at that time. And I find them beautiful.

#00105 Pontederia cordata. 2018, Unique photogram, Rives BFK, gouache, gum arabic, kitakata, ink, 23k gold leaf, 29x23 in. framed, $1250

AK: You describe yourself as a transdisciplinary artist working with photographic media, video, and installation. Do you feel your practice in each medium/media bleeds into each other — in the sense that perhaps you are working on a still photograph and it gives you an idea for a video?

DW: Absolutely. My work is driven first by concept. However, the process of making is also very important to me. I try to be open to how these explorations and expressions might manifest. These three realms of working can intertwine to create experiences for others, that are at times unexpected, and that I welcome.

AK: You have received a few grants. Do you have advice for other creatives as to how to go about getting a grant?

DW: Grants — yes! Write, apply, apply, refine by writing more, and apply again. While grants are competitive, I believe there is some element of timing. Attempt to understand what granting agencies are looking for — for example, does your particular idea or project align with the granting organization’s mission? Are they interested in funding work that has yet to begin, or projects which are deeply underway, or projects that are completed? The more you write, the better solidified and succinct your ideas become on the page. And know that for every successful grant I have received, there might be ten, twenty, or more rejections. The key is to not give up.

DM Witman is a transdisciplinary artist working at the intersection of environmental disruption and the human relationship to place in the Age of the Anthropocene.Her creative practice is deeply rooted within the effects of the climate predicament to humans and more-than-human species on this planet, employing photographic materials, video, and installation. Interviews and publications include The Guardian, BBC Culture, WIRED, Boston Globe, and Art New England. She actively exhibits her work and has been recognized with grants from the Maine Arts Commission, The Kindling Fund (a regrantor for the Warhol Foundation), The John Anson Kittredge Fund, and the Puffin Foundation. Her work has been collected by institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and is placed within many private collections. She splits her time between the Borderlands of South Texas and Midcoast Maine.
DM Witman @Brenton Hamilton


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300 Rufina Circle, Unit A3, Santa Fe, NM 87507

For more information, and to reserve one of these unique works, please contact 
Gallery Director Anne Kelly
You may also call us at (505) 988-5152 x202