The first annual Members Show brings together three artist collectives from Crane Arts – InLiquid, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, and Second State Press – to highlight the best work of their membership. Today’s Members Show featured artist is PPAC member Scot Wittman.
Medical Technology seems to be the primary influence in your work. Can you tell me where your interest in it began?
Did you know there is someone with a digital eyeball in his socket? There are robots that look like super spiders that can pass balance and Turing tests? Like most, I’m fascinated by this technology, however my work targets the implications rather than the implants. I focus on people, not parts. My artworks place individuals together in a peculiar moment of interaction. Prior to my current photographic prints, I created fictional characters by cutting silhouette figures. Creating figurative shapes allowed me to break the laws of physics and summon icons from previous centuries. Increasingly I felt the need to present the viewer with moorings of reality. I was thinking a lot about the actual people giving us vanguard opportunities and how that will affect us. Soon I began working with BioEngineers at IBNAM* and designers at NUPOC** who are developing incredible procedures. I was an Artist in Residence at Three Walls able to work every day with celebrated scientists at Northwestern University. Now I am working with Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, have been visiting the Modena Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Italy and am in conversation with other facilities.
*IBNAM: Institute for BioNAnotechnologies in Medicine
**NUPOC: Northwestern University Prosthetics and Orthotics Center
If you could turn one science fiction film into an art piece, what would it be and why?
Blade Runner, which is a favorite. Yes, that classic has the Tyrell Corporation, chiaroscuro lighting throughout the film… and Han Solo himself. Recently though I’ve been hooked on H+. Agreed it is not a film (it’s a web TV series) and I think it runs hot and cold, but I like the subject matter and how it makes me think. There are many elements that resonate: syringe-injected nano-tech, dynamics of interpersonal relationships, different regions on earth and in virtual space – and hearing moments of Italian is nostalgic.
You typically divide your time between the east and west coasts. What are some of the differences between the two arts scenes that you’ve noticed?
I am currently exhibiting in LA as well as this show in Philadelphia; the two are different indeed but I am not sure each show represents the entire ecosystems of their collective coasts. Obviously both coasts offer MegaMuseum experiences and also generate specific gallery interests. The difference is reflected in the geography itself. The East Coast, with its many tiny states, offers pockets of provincial distinction. The West Coast offers a full range of experiences wherever you go.
What are you up to now, and what do you have in the works for the near future?
The new thing I am working on is a white on white effect. I am still bringing characters together in dark blue map silhouette but I am adding a whisper of an image in the white background. Also, gravity is playing a bigger role: falling, jumping, suspension and wobble. It is an exciting time in my studio; I am only footsteps from the PAFA paintbrush and it is easy for people to drop in. Lots of models: dancers, athletes, actors and interested friends. I am always looking to photograph new people as characters. Anyone interested can always email email@example.com
Can you tell me a bit more about the piece you’ll have in the Members Show?
My work in the Members Show is one of the newest pieces in my Offset Series. ‘Offset’ is a printmaking term referring to an inked image being lifted from a plate, but it is also a word that refers to something not quite right. My piece “RoBotany” presents oddities amongst classical symbols. A statuesque woman is holding a rose (“the graceful plant of Muses”) and wine is at her feet, but there are problems. The rose is dripping. The beautiful woman has a look of concern. The Map, classically executed with the precision of offset printing, is partially ghosted and seemingly misregistered. There is obvious disorder in this moment, yet the graphics suggest a sense of stability and balance.
What has your experience as a PPAC member been like so far?
It is clear the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center is a strong trust. I was fortunate to meet so many at a party and found myself in wonderfully rich conversations. Writers, lawyers, farmers, Philly pride natives and recent transplants: we all share a profound relationship with photography. I greatly appreciate the Board and Staff who are intelligent, inviting, supportive and provide a wealth of programming and facility.
What are you hoping audiences will take away from the collaborative Members Show?
This show comprises sincere talents using different modes to project different moods. I hope gallery goers leave the Members Show by continuing a conversation the art initiates. Individual artworks can impact us in the same way individual songs on the radio can impact us. I hope people find individual artworks at the Members Show interesting enough to revisit them in discussions with other people, revisit them in the gallery or just simply continue to ponder them in their own minds.
The Members Show runs August 3 – 24 at the Icebox Project Space at Crane Arts, 1400 N. American Street. There will be an opening reception Second Thursday, August 8, 6 – 9 pm.