Artist Statement, Biography & C.V.

ARTIST STATEMENT | BIO | EDUCATION | EXHIBITIONS | CURRENT REPRESENTATION | ORGANIZATIONS

My work springs from my love of the seacoast and fascination with people make a living from its waters. The images are not descriptive of any particular person or place. They are meant to be generic, symbolic and iconic and are based on years of internalized accumulated experiences and memories of exploring salty shores from both land and water.

Having been a photographer for nearly three decades, the greatest joy I have as a painter is freedom from objective reality. I can bend, twist, stretch, exaggerate and simplify the things I see. I can put things in and leave things out. I can completely make things up, which is what I do most of the time. I’m more interested in playing with shapes, colors and compositions that evoke a feeling than in simply painting the way things look.

I’m most pleased when people look at my work and smile. It’s nice to be able to put together a collection of lines shapes and colors that add a little humor and brightness to a world that’s too often frightening and dreary.

– David Witbeck


Bio:

In the first 18 years of my life I probably spent no more than three or four weeks, on family vacations, near salt water, yet I always drew pictures of boats, lighthouses and stormy seascapes and read every sea story I could find in the school library. 

When studying at Pratt Institute, I’d often skip my morning painting classes to prowl the Fulton Fish Market and take photographs of fishing boats with the Brooklyn Bridge looming behind them and of longshoremen pushing handcarts loaded with crates of iced fish over the cobbled streets. I got hooked by photography which, with all the social turmoil of the late ‘60s, seemed to be a much more worthwhile pursuit than the seeming irrelevance of the ‘60s New York art scene. After dropping out of Pratt in 1968 (it didn’t have a photography program at the time) and  moved 400 miles inland to study photography and didn’t see the sea again for another ten years.

The vicissitudes of life got in the way of college and shortly after arriving in Rochester, NY I again dropped out of school, this time from RIT, and had a checkered job history for the next ten years, the last six of which were spent as a Teamster driving tractor-trailers. When I decided it was time to return to college, in 1980, Rhode Island School of Design was my first choice largely because of its proximity to salt water. 

I was a free-lance photographer for 25 years after graduating from RISD, initially shooting for a number of regional magazines including “Yankee” and “New England Monthly”. I found that I could use my camera to open a lot of doors. The excuse of shooting a photo-essay is a great way to get into situations that I otherwise couldn’t, such as getting aboard tugboats, lobster boats and commercial fishing vessels. Photography, though a great documentary medium, doesn’t interest me as an expressive medium. 

In 1991 my wife and I met Leo Brooks, a painter, who was working on Monhegan Island that summer. I loved his childlike drawing, bold colors and complete disregard for objective reality. I hadn’t painted since 1968, but Leo’s work struck a chord and started me thinking about painting again. The watercolor we bought from him, a “fisherman” very different from my own, is one of our most treasured possessions. Being a procrastinator, it was ten years later, 2000, thirty-two years after quitting art school, that the need to paint finally took hold of me and I enrolled in a continuing ed painting class at RISD.

Most of my current work springs from a lifelong love of the sea, the New England coast and a fascination with commercial fishing. Having been a photographer for nearly three decades, the greatest joy I have as a painter is freedom from objective reality. I can bend, twist, stretch, exaggerate and simplify the things I see. I can put things in and leave things out. I can even completely make things up, which is what I do most of the time. I paint how things make me feel instead of simply what they look like.

As a young art student I took Art and myself way too seriously. Having come back to painting relatively late in life I now understand that few artists have anything earth-shaking to say. I take comfort and inspiration from the words of painter an art educator Edgar Whitney:  “If, facing the paper, your thought is ‘I am an artist,’ you have no clue as to what to do. If the concepts of your function are, ‘I am a shape maker, an entertainer, an expressive symbol collector’ … then you have an explicit road map.” Now, I’m most pleased when people look at my work and smile. It’s nice to be able to put together a collection of lines and shapes and colors that bring a little fun and brightness to a world that’s too often frightening and dreary.

– David Witbeck


Education:

1965-68: Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, Graphic Arts

1970: Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, Photojournalism

1980-82: Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, BFA Photography

1992-94: Rhode Island College, Providence, RI, MAT Elementary Education


Selected Exhibitions:

2001: Brooklyn Coffee House, Providence, RI. Solo show.

2001: Donovan Gallery, Tiverton, RI. Group show.

2001: RI Watercolor Society. New Members’ show.

2001: Providence Art Club. Members show.

2002: RI Watercolor Society summer show. Second prize.

2002: Providence Art Club. Members show. Providence Art Club Award.

2002: Brooklyn Coffee House, Providence, RI. One-man show.

2003: RI Watercolor Society summer show. Award of Merit.

2003: Providence Art Club. Two-artist show.

2003: Gallery by the Sea, Port Clyde, ME. Group show.

2003: Providence Art Club. Petite Tableau Exhibit. J. Bannigan Sullivan Award.

2003: Jewish Community Center, Worcester, MA. One-man show.

2005: Providence Art Club. Two-artist show

2006: Providence Art Club. Small works show. Frederick Sisson Award.

2006: Providence Art Club. Solo show.

2007: Pawtucket Arts Collaborative. Invitational Figurative show.

2007: Provincetown Art Association. Juried Members’ Show.

2007: RI Watercolor Society. Open juried show. Honorable mention.

2007: Charlestown Gallery, Charlestown, RI. ”Big Sky, Big Fish” Two artist show

2007: Donovan Gallery, Tiverton, RI. ”By the Sea” One man show.

2007: Firehouse Gallery, Damariscotta, ME. “Coming to Maine” group show.

2008: Newport (RI) Art Museum juried members’ show. Honorable mention.

2009: Newport (RI) Art Museum juried members’ show.

2009: DeBlois Gallery, Newport, RI. “Creatures”, invitational 3 artist show.

2010: Providence Art Club, Providence, RI. 2 person show.

2010: Gleason Fine Art, Portland, ME. “Bird, Boats and Big Fish”, 2 artist show.

2010: Cove Gallery, Chatham, MA. Featured artist for grand opening of new gallery.

2011: Maine-Art, Kennebunk, ME. 3 artist show.

2011: Gleason Fine Arts, Boothbay Harbor, ME, 3 artist show.

2013: Art Collector Maine at Cellardoor Villa, Rockport, ME. Solo show.

2013: Maine-Art, Kennebunk, ME. Solo show.

2013: Cove Gallery, Wellfleet, MA. Solo show.

2014: Maine-Art, Kennebunk, ME. Solo show.

2015: Cove Gallery, Wellfleet, MA. Solo show.

2016: Maine-Art, Kennebunk, ME. Solo show.

2017: Big Ink at S3 Art Space, Portsmouth, NH. Invitational large woodcut event.

2017: Maine-Art, Kennebunk, ME. Solo show.

2017: Objects Gallery, Irvington, VA, Solo show.


Current Gallery Representation:

I frequently get inquiries about purchasing paintings directly from me. The artist/gallery relationship is symbiotic. I would have very little exposure without gallery representation and I protect that relationship by selling originals only through them. I do, however, sell small high quality digital prints directly – check out the BUY PRINTS section if you are interested.

If you’re interested in an original painting, please contact any or all of the galleries below:

Anthi Frangiatis Gallery, Marion, MA

Artrio Gallery, Hyannis, MA

Charlestown Gallery, Charlestown, RI

Courtyard Gallery, Mystic, CT

Cove Gallery, Wellfleet and South Chatham , MA

Dryden Gallery, Providence, RI

Gallery at Somes Sound, Somesville, ME

Maine Art Gallery, Kennebunk, ME

Objects, Art and More, Irvington, VA


Art Organizations

Providence Art Club, Providence, RI, exhibiting artist member.

Art League of Rhode Island, Providence, RI, elected artist member.