Andrew Witrak : San Francisco-Based Artist/Troubadour
I had the pleasure of recently conversing with San Francisco based artist, Andrew Witrak, about the experience of his art. Shaped by the windswept, glacial and fresh waters of Lake Superior as a youth, Witrak translates the power of this force into much of his work. The supremacy of water unavoidably manipulates his brush, his casts, sculptures and photos for, as Witrak resolutely stated, “We, too, are made of water.” This liquid unleashes his artistic inclinations because of two things: 1) he feels it providing the force to live 2) he also feels the authority of its absence. The physical and abstract oscillation of water between power and weakness is what ultimately informs his work. It is remarkably shown in a number of his oeuvres including the piece entitled:
“Way Out #4”
colored pencil on paper
7′ x 12′
Seen falling into the immense depths of a brilliant hue of blue, the sinking figure lingers in the viewer’s mind; he’s pushing and kicking against a malleable sea trying to escape. The act is futile as the water yields to his movements while unceasingly engulfing him at the same time. There is relentless pressure, doom and presence from the blue that etches itself into your memory. Still, there is another little item that must not be forgotten here. Water is equally a strength, a preserver or “a womb,” as Witrak remarked, that surrounds us at all times. Perhaps the message of this image is not one of death, then? One could also surmise that this water is washing the figure free of his burdens and channeling his focus elsewhere. Perhaps it is to the wondrous fragility of existing? There is no particular appropriate response to these interrogations. Rather, the attraction of the water-influenced oeuvre is that it demands we question our vulnerability and fortune as humans; the potential is in the question.
One also begins to notice the influence of water in Witrak’s work when considering the numerous pieces he’s completed with life-preservers. He qualifies them as “eerie and loaded objects since we employ them during emergencies or when we are being overly cautious.” Witrak did not fuss about exact representation when constructing the life-jackets. In point of fact, he made them to be completely useless objects. By extension, they are meant to symbolize our needless insistence on security in an undoubtedly unsure world. Sometimes they are stacked to represent the numerous times Witrak, himself, treaded lightly through life out of fear of the unknown. Sometimes they hang to convey the suspended and arrested nature of our contemporary life. The message, in the end, is that many of us lead an existence partially lived and often unfulfilled. The challenge given to us by Witrak is that we not accept this phenomenon as acceptable.
hand-sewn canvas, gesso
28″ x 8″ x 48″
“Lifevest for 6″
hand-sewn canvas, gesso
9′ x 4″ x 1.5”
“Hier / Demain”
Hand-sewn canvas, gesso, steel
24″ x 15″ x 4″, corner piece
To manifest works from thoughts and to concretize visions into a physical display is immensely difficult. The artist conceives and challenges life beyond normal paradigms both personal and societal. This is a process that wracks the mind and heart. The progression is laborious and sedulous enough to even induce madness at times. Paradoxically, the relative weakness and incertitude experienced during the molding guides the work. Witrak certainly experienced all of this turmoil and joy while conceiving these pieces. The layered meanings behind his creations are evidence of this arduous reflection and process. Should you want to further discover the artist Andrew Witrak, please visit his website at http://andrewwitrak.com and/or check out other works and his music below.
“Emergency Flip Flops”
steel, wood, hand-stitched webbing, glass8″ x 4″ x 10″
cast wax, canvas, acrylic paint, wick
“Trouble in Paradise”
cardboard, fiberglass, styrofoam, 3000 cocktail umbrellas.
5’ x 7’ x 1’
Andrew Witrak’s Music: