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Meet Trailblazer Luanne E Witkowski

Today we’d like to introduce you to Luanne E Witkowski.

Luanne, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I knew I was an artist and a treehugger from a very early age. I’ve always been fascinated by nature and drawn to its designs and beauty. I studied art and making, creativity and creative thinking throughout my life, embracing studio practice and visual expression as my voice. I was fortunate to have really great art teachers in high school who encouraged me to attend Saturday Studios at MassArt. Girl Scouting got me into the woods and through camping and community activism I discovered my love for teaching and discovery. I received my undergraduate degree at MassArt in Art History and Printmaking and quickly found myself working in museums, non-profits and arts organizations while initiating and ‘activating’ alternative art spaces with my friends and engaging in the local music scene. A longing to strengthen my studio practice led me to taking a position as a painting studio manager to surround myself with painters and become a better painter through ‘osmosis’. As that happened for me my eyes were opened to the fuller scope of ‘studio practice’ and I went on to develop Basic Training: a program of holistic education in the fine arts focusing on the studio experience as my Masters degree thesis in the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass/Boston. I identify first and foremost as a practicing studio artist and activist working in a wide range of media and reflective social practice. Through teaching in the MassArt Interdisciplinary mini-residency at Haystack School of Crafts in Maine, I was introduced to the art of environmental, video, and land artists that validated and inspired my practice and enabled me to connect many aspects of my life and aesthetics. Today my works are in collections throughout the United States and abroad. I’ve been a member of the Kingston Gallery in Boston since 2005 where my show STRATA is opening next week. I also show at Hutson Gallery and AMP Gallery in Provincetown. My organizational affiliations include the United South End Artists, Mission Hill Artist Collective, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. I’ve been honored and humbled to receive the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Lifetime Achievement in Art & Commerce Commendation. My work is featured in in Contemporary Cape Cod Artists on Abstraction, (D.Forman, 2015, Schiffer Publishers).

In addition to my studio practice, I am the Design Studio manager, adjunct faculty, and LR-MFA Mentor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and I teach Creative Thinking in the Critical & Creative Thinking (CCT) graduate program at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s never a smooth road when one goes off the beaten path! My father was a military man so we travelled a lot, and my mom was a ‘culture vulture’, so we explored and saw EVERYTHING a place had to offer! Moving around inspired and taught me to get involved in order to meet people, and to learn as much as I could from every environment, circumstance and situation I was presented with. Community activism became important to me, as did spending time reflecting on all my experiences in different natural settings. This brought me closer to nature and appreciating the earth and all its elements. Mother Nature is my collaborator! When I was young and working at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard U I had the great honor to meet and become friendly with Agnes Mongan, Director Emeritus, (the first woman to be a curator and then the first to be a director at the Fogg Art Museum). I asked her once if she had any advice for an aspiring art historian/curator and she said: 1. Never learn to type, because they will always make you their secretary and 2. Never worry about the money – they will always pay you less than the men – just love what you do and you will succeed. I took her advice, and while it served me for a little while, as technology has changed our world in so many ways, I’m sorry I can’t type faster!! I also think women are in a much better place today to negotiate and demand equal pay and treatment in their careers.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I mix traditional & non-traditional materials on wood panels, canvas, paper and other substrates in response to patterns & textures that repeat and carry throughout the natural world. I emphasize these patterns by following the woodgrain and the texture of materials to reveal geographies and topographies. I invite the viewer to join me in thinking about and exploring the meaning, power, and simplicity of line, relationships of shapes & content of color on and within a geometric form, influenced by my city dwelling at home, work, and in the studio.

I live and work in the heart of the city. I am a practicing studio and environmental installation artist and social practitioner. I stay open to constantly learning, investigating, and researching to better my work, my practice, my teaching and sharing. Teaching and training young artists and creative thinkers how to enter and engage with their world as artists and citizens, I am busy and plugged in. I spend time with artists, students, neighbors on campus, in the city, and on forays into the natural world. I love my work with everyone and it informs and fortifies my own studio practice and making. I engage with all the resources available: human, technological, societal, natural; and all the materials I can get my hands on and my head around: traditional and non-traditional. I love and constantly long to have un-plugged time alone to look out from the shore or a mountaintop on monumental, expansive views: vast seas, big skies, columns of clouds, infinite stars…. exposure to the sun’s smooth warmth on scratchy pummeled sand, the wind’s capricious conversation with noble clouds and ominous shadows, white hot snow that burns our eyes with its own brightness. Then to look into smaller, intimate views: crawling, closed wooded trails, puddle-size kettle ponds, tidal coves, and cozy interiors… having time to express the essence of experiencing that which will bring its own language and meaning. I yearn to be brought back to a profound simplicity & minimalism: earth, sea & sky… in ever changing relationships of color, shape & texture.

I invite you to come see my latest: STRATA, a multi-media collaboration between me,
Kingston Gallery Artist, Luanne E Witkowski
and Guest Artist, Denise Marika, 1955-2018
September 5 – 30, 2018
Opening Reception: September 7, 5-8pm
Gallery talk: September 22, 3pm

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
Be authentic! Others’ opinions of you are not as important as your opinion of yourself. Explore your ideas, loves, likes, interests as fully as you can. Don’t be locked in by societal gender roles. Embrace your masculine side alongside your feminine side as a strong woman! Stand your ground with love, compassion and empathy. One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou: People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

And most importantly, to young artists: remember – art is art – everything else is just everything else. 🙂

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

LEWitkowski for all

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