It Hits Home

by Jessica Witte and Christine A. Holtz

June 8 – Aug. 2, 2020
The Gallery at The Kranzberg

Virtual artist talk: Artmaking & Caretaking During Covid-19

The current Covid-19 pandemic reveals the difficulty, labor dynamics, and joys of family life. As the national health crisis redefines our homes and what we value, many parents struggling to hold jobs have been forced to become full-time caregivers, teachers, tech support, and emotional support to their children. Artists Jessica Witte and Christine A. Holtz highlight the chaos and catharsis of parenthood amplified by the current situation. Both use their children as subject matter and inspiration; often using repetition to speak to the mundane. The investment of time in the hand-embroidered cloth and floor quilt drawings spotlight the work of caregiving. Both artists are teaching online, homeschooling their children, and making art in response to this new normal.

Jessica Witte 

My multimedia artwork embraces change and glorifies caregiving.

Family ties and duties are the spark behind my sculptures and installations. 

You Are My Sunshine is a quilt-inspired pattern drawn on the ground in colored powdered chalk.  These drawings serve as beautiful reminders of the warmth, presence, and fragility of my 100-year-old grandmother and family in cancer treatment during this pandemic.  The bright patterns are safely viewed from the window yet could easily be disrupted by a visitor’s misstep.  

Bull in a China Shop, a cast-glass onesie from my firstborn visible inside a locked cabinet, embodies my jarring introduction to parenthood in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Where He and She Begin is a series of video portraits of my children with superimposed projections of myself from the same age. As the focus shifts, our similarities and differences are magnified. The altered nature of the portraits serves as a reminder that time is fleeting, and the only constant is change.

Her Vanity is dedicated to my late grandmother.  She was never warm but always perfectly presented.  Only in retrospect did I realize what an independent woman she was.  

Through this body of work, I hope to inspire viewers to embrace the present moment and reexamine the importance of caregiving.

Christine A. Holtz

Christine Holtz

My art practice is an ongoing search for a system of logic behind my everyday experiences. As a parent, often that logic is lost, and my job is to try to find it preferably with humor.  The current national health crisis has amplified the focus of my work and relevance to families forced into a more domestic environment. 

Up a Creek Without a Paddle represents the household we keep afloat without control or certainty as to where we are headed. We all feel trapped in the safety of our own homes.

Covid-19 Work Blazer is my uniform as a mother, college instructor, homeschooler, and artist. I am trying to maintain a sense of professionalism while my children sing, dance, fight, and complain in the background.  This piece symbolizes the extra arms needed to keep our family from losing balance in our “new normal.”  The sewn gesture drawings paired with repetitive hand embroidery are both an illustration and metaphor for parenting. Hand embroidery requires a lot of control and repetition−very much like raising children. Likewise, in freehand machine embroidery, the machine wants to move in one direction while I encourage it to sew in a more desirable path.  The processes are both a struggle and cathartic−just like parenthood.  

From a distance, My Tumbleweed and My Jumping Bean appear to be ruined drawings, but up close the time taken to embroider the scribbles from each of my children symbolizes a beauty in the uncontrollable and their influence over my thoughts and artwork. Similarly, Mumbleweed is composed of strips of hand-cut paper covered in hundreds of phrases I have found myself saying over and over to my daughters. This piece represents the countless hours of words lost to the wind.  

Parenting without a village is exhausting. The current situation is redefining how we view our homes and what we value as a society.

Both mentally and physically exhausted from homeschooling their children and working remotely from home, the artists had to make a decision. Christine called Jessica that evening and said, “I think we should do it. When has our subject matter of caregiving and parenthood been more amplified than in this current situation?”

from “Processing the Pandemic as an Artist and Caregiver,” by Holtz and Witte

“It Hits Home” Audio Tour

Narrated by Jessica Witte and Christine A. Holtz

Artmaking and Caretaking during Covid-19

Digital Artist Talk via Zoom – July 23, 2020