Oh, Joan...

The past two weeks I have been living with Untitled, 1961 by Joan Mitchell.

The chaotic nature of this piece was what had drawn me to it, the fact that it seems “desperate yet tender," as Mitchell’s pieces are often described. It was poetic of nature, and I appreciated that about this painting, how the paint was splattered in places and scrapped on in others — all with a purpose, but a certain mystery to it. I was drawn to her life story, a father who asked for a son but got a daughter instead, a child forced to compete with her family to get to the top of the heap, and a hard exterior yet an emotional center.

I struggled a lot with this piece. It was difficult to get out of the mindset of me and get into the mindset of Joan Mitchell. Even now, I still do xnot feel like it’s my own. It is not my feeling, it is not my experience, and it is certainly not my piece. I am not sure who’s piece it is, but it does not belong to me. Maybe it belongs to Mitchell.

The process of this piece was a lot of layering negative space between color to let it breathe, which is something I am not used to allowing my paintings to do. I could not stop thinking about this painting for the whole two weeks — not because of the deadline looming over my head, but because of how it was uncharted territory. I learned how to not be afraid of using a lot of paint, and I learned how to use oil paint to my advantage, instead of being sworn enemies.

Overall, I am happy with this piece, I have not settled yet with it, and most likely will take a break from it and then go back to finish it. Paintings for me are constantly a work in progress, and this one — even though it doesn’t feel like mine — is no exception.