The house and tree that were the departure point for "Family Tree"  

In April of 2003, I participated in a unique exhibit at Brickbottom Gallery in Somerville, MA. The theme of the show was collaboration between two or more artists. There were two components to the show. The first was to create a piece by working closely with an artist of your choosing. It could be someone you’ve worked with extensively or someone you’ve never worked with before. The second component was to create an “exquisite corpse” in collaboration with all the artists in the show, but working independently. Each artist was assigned a section to work on. I worked on the head and legs. The “corpse” was not assembled in its entirety until the show was hung.

I worked with artist and photographer Susan Green on our collaboration piece. Our goal for this project was to create a work of art combining traditional oil painting and collage with digital technology, two very different media, into a unified whole. To achieve that, we utilized the concept of “deconstruction”. We selected a photograph that I had taken of a yellow house near my studio to use as a starting point. The photo was scanned into quadrants. We each worked on two quadrants. We knew that by working on different parts of the same overall image that the finished piece would have an inherent cohesion. I interpreted and re-created my photo fragments using oil paint and collage. Susan digitally manipulated her photo fragments in the computer. We placed our squares next to each other’s at various intervals during the creative process to ensure that there was aesthetic overlap and to strategize ways to enhance the continuity of the art. For example, we each added birds to our squares. Despite the coordination of certain elements, there were still unexpected results each time we did this.

I worked directly on wood panels and Susan’s digital prints were glued onto wood panels. When we assembled the finished panels we were delighted with the results. We experimented with arranging them out of sequence but then decided to maintain the integrity of the original image. The panels then had to be braced individually and all four joined together.

This was our first collaboration project together. It was an unusual experience for me to not have complete control over the outcome of an artwork that I was involved with. But the overall effect that was achieved through collaboration was exciting and would not have been possible for an individual artist to duplicate. The result was well worth all the angst.


© 2011 Alan Witschonke