Sterling Witt is a renegade artist born and raised in the rural countryside of Missouri. Largely self-taught, Witt often explores alternative ways to apply paint to his work. The Explosive series was created by trial and error. After stretching several canvases and building up the desired texture with paint, glue, epoxy and other mixed media, Witt places canvases out in a grassy field that he soon turns into a firing range. He shakes cans of spray-paint in an array of colors, and then places the cans randomly on top of the canvases. With a 22-caliber rifle, he shoots the cans of spray-paint creating a series of explosions that disperse the paint spontaneously, and somewhat dangerously. Often, the cans become flying projectiles zipping off in every direction. Sometimes the cans break in half or spin in writhing chaos shooting out paint in the most unpredictable ways. Witt never knows what is going to happen. He has dodged flying spray-paint cans more times than he can keep track. It's exciting and it keeps him on his toes. The bullets often rip through the canvases and even strike the stretchers and splinter the wood. Paint explodes everywhere: on the canvases and the grass, leaves and trees, too. Every so often after a few rounds have been fired and mayhem has been unleashed upon the canvases, Witt will investigate the progress by having a closer look at the results. He might then rearrange the canvases as needed and explode more paint until he feels that they are done.
Why on earth would anybody do this?
"Results," Witt says. "The goal is to get an unpredictable and spontaneous application of the paint repeatedly with harmonious color contrast. Something a human hand can not do. The more you do anything, the more predictable it becomes, except for this process. I have yet to be able to predict how the canvases will turn out, and that is why I do it."
This process may sound crazy enough, but this is just the beginning. After the painted canvases are considered successful, they find their way to an easel one at a time. Witt creates expressionistic female figures on top of the exploded paint.
"It's as if the exploded paint is the environment that allows these figures to exist," Witt says. "These figures come forth without a model or sketches, created solely from my imagination. The explosion-painted canvases inspire and guide the paintbrush in ways that could never be achieved otherwise. This is high-stakes art. If I don't get it right on the first attempt, then I have to start over and go back to the firing range to get a new background to work with. It is a vicious cycle. I only get one chance."