Kelly Witmer’s work is organic, sculptural, and strangely evocative. Her chosen materials include ceramics, glass and metal with the same organic shapes reappearing again, and again. An oval rounded shape, for example, is seen manifested in a tile’s glazed decoration, in a metal and blown-glass hanging chandelier, and in a found-object sculpture in her garden. The art pieces in her charming Yucca Mesa studio – all seem to speak the same language – and are all cousins in a strange, mysterious way.
Witmer’s work first came to my attention when it was included in the Open Studio Art Tour’s Collective show held at JTAG gallery in 2022. The piece Kelly included in that show was an organic pierced-metal shaped wall sculpture with elements of blown-out purple glass. It really stood out against the other 2-D works in the show, and commanded a big presence in the gallery. The sculpture looked a bit like a small alien ship had landed on the wall here in Joshua Tree.
As a child, Witmer’s family moved around a lot. Most time of her childhood – Kelly lived in Middletown, Pennsylvania. In 1979, when she was in the 3rd grade, the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown occurred in her small town. It was years before her family could afford to move again, even with the threat of radiation fall out, and when they did – they relocated to historic Gettysburg, another small town with a rather dark and morbid Civil War history.
Attending art school in Philadelphia at the University of the Arts, Kelly earning a BFA in photography. “My work at that time centered around personal narratives with extensive darkroom experimentation, such as layering black + white with color negatives and various noxious chemical mixing while developing the prints.” Ultimately, she decided to move somewhere warm and she landed in Los Angeles over 30 years ago. Southern California became her adopted home – and she moved to the High Desert 11 years ago.