Sulfur Studios’ latest virtual gallery features the work of local artist Jon Witzky.
"I hope that my paintings point to a sense of mystery and spiritual awe inspired by life," says Witzky. "In my life and work I see the past and the present as coexisting, maybe imperfectly, in an ever-expansive moment and these are themes that have remained constant in my work for many years."
Initially, Witzky experienced an artistic block from the lifestyle changes caused by the pandemic. While social distancing and isolation gave most people a chance to explore their inner creative, it silenced his.
"The paintings that I created for this exhibit were all made during the lockdown," he said. "I was teaching at Georgia Southern and suddenly found myself teaching art online from my porch and living room.
"For the first couple of months I couldn’t create anything at all – just no thoughts or desire to get creative. I would see people online talking about all the amazing work they were doing and I just couldn’t get there."
Then an opportunity from Sulfur Studios inspired Witzky to begin creating again.
"When Sulfur proposed doing the online/window show it got me motivated – but rather than create things in a thematic or conceptual framework I decided to just get it all out, purge myself of all the shit that had been accumulating in my psyche," said Witzky.
The result of this "purge" is an enigmatic collection of paintings that explore a transcendent space between dreams and reality.
"Usually my paintings are large, like giant picture windows. They are dark, mostly blue, but filled with subtle color. Sometimes they remind me of wandering around a neighborhood in the middle of the night. They are filled with ghosts, weird memories and fading dreams, movie and TV stills, kind of a trippy vibe," said Witzky.
Acrylics, oil, and ink are among the various mediums the Witzky utilizes to paint his images onto canvas or wood panels. His relationship with paint only elevates the mental aspect of his art.
"Over the past few years I have begun making my own paint out of dry pigment, this gives me a lot of control over the color and consistency of my paint, also it gives me something to do while I think about my work – mixing paint can be very meditative and calming, which is important because the actual painting process can be very intense," says Witzky.
His use of gestural brushstrokes and dusky colors produces an atmospheric and mysterious effect. In Witzky’s world, nighttime exists as an emotion and a moment simultaneously. Spirits, humans, and dreams coalesce in realms that have mystical elements.
"My inspirations come from all over the place, old movies, TV shows, old family photos, but mainly from observation – paying attention to the way that the night looks and feels, allowing myself to be present in the moment and to bring that back to the canvas," says Witzky.
In addition, Witzky has dedicated this particular exhibit to an important cause. He is donating 100% of the proceeds from all of his paintings to the National Bail Out Collective, "a Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration."
"This is a tremendous time to be alive, the global nature of the pandemic has created a moment where humanity is linked by a common experience," he said.
"Rather than being the great equalizer that it was claimed to be, this global trauma has brought to light issues of systemic racism, inequity and injustice – violence - that are bound up in race and class, and that have never been addressed in a meaningful way. These are issues that are omnipresent but have been made bare over the past few months with the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless others.
"A lot of people have been forcefully awakened to issues that existed just on the periphery of their consciousness, if at all, and now are coming to a reckoning with their own humanity – it’s an unveiling, peeling back the onion. So, I guess my motivation for doing this is to stand in solidarity with the movement against social, political and economic violence and in support of equity, equality and justice at this critical juncture."
For those interested in viewing Witzky’s exhibit, you can visit the On::View Pop Up Gallery section at https://sulfurstudios.org/.