THE WORK AND THE ARTIST
Artist: Wells Witteman, Alisa
Title/Date: Found Memories,Transformed, 1972
Description of the work:
The image is a vintage gelatin silver glossy print from glass-plate negative. A toddler in a dress and cap stands on a walkway with her right hand resting on a rotating chair and left raised in a wave. It is difficult to ascertain more specific details about the child, or the location, due to the photographer’s deep adjustments in contrast and light. The background has been overexposed with some evidence of double exposure below the subject at her feet. Witteman chose to leave the poor condition of the edges of the original photograph as part of her finished piece.
Wells created the series “Found Moments Transformed” which used and transformed found glass-plate negatives in 1969. She altered the originals through staining, solarization and other manipulations, all of which can be observed in this piece. Research indicates Witteman made prints using this same image but with different manipulations of light and the development process.
Born Alisa Wells in 1927 in Erie, Pennsylvania, the artist worked in the media of photography creating multi-layered images and worked with found glass-plate negatives. She studied at Pennsylvania State University and worked at the Eastman Kodak Company where she became interested in photography. By the mid-1960s, Wells was experimenting with creating multiple layers in an image by running exposed film back through the camera.
Wells Witteman was most active as a photographer from 1962 to 1975, when she was included in a number of group exhibitions, as well as, six one-person exhibitions. A private individual, there is little written about her personal or family life. She moved to the mountains of New Mexico, in the 1970s, where she lived a spartan lifestyle with no utilities. Articles in the Santa Fe New Mexican and the Taos News of 1976 and 1978 respectively, indicate she was working as faculty in the Art Department at University of New Mexico and exhibiting in Santa Fe and Taos. She said of her work, at an exhibition entitled Anyway You Look, “For the product of work to be meaningful to me, it must represent what is happening in my life on many visual and metaphorical levels as I am able to evoke.” She died in 1987.
Signed: Alisa Wells Witteman lower left in graphite 14/125 and title.
Dates and Dimension: 1972; printed 1976, 9” x 12”
Medium: Gelatin-silver print
Accession and Acquisition: # 1978.7.43 Date: 1978
Provenance and Exhibitions: Although Wells Witteman was featured in several group and solo shows, there is no definitive information this particular image was included in any or all of those exhibits.
Framed or Flat: unframed
Current Location: Piece is part of the University Art Gallery’s permanent collections at New Mexico State University.
http://collections.lacma.org/node/156061 accessed November 10, 2016.
http://newspaperarchive.com/us/new-mexico/santa-fe/santa-fe-new-mexican/1975/07-25/page-199?tag=alisa+wells&rtserp=tags/?pep=alisa-wells accessed November 10, 2016.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alisa_Wells accessed November 8, 2016.
“Wells, Alice (1927–1987).” Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages. Encyclopedia.com. 10 Nov. 2016. http://www.encyclopedia.com accessed November 8, 2016.
Reproductions: Edition of 125 prints. Copies are on record at the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, Center for Creative Photography, Tucson AZ, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TX, many held in unknown locations and/or in private collections. Several reproductions can currently be found for sale online.
Researched by: Carleen Cirillo, 8 November 2016.