Distance: 3 miles, Yoga
So, as close to daily as she could arrange, Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) went into her painting studio, secured a canvas that was at least as tall and much wider than her own frame, shuttered the windows and began dissolving into her work. From her memory she brought up a lake or tree or maybe a childhood pet and all the colors, feelings, thoughts that accompanied it for her. Then she squeezed vibrant, intense colors from her tubes of oil paints, took her brushes, trowels, turpentine and other artistic implements in hand, and painted and scraped and wetted the oil to the point it dripped down the canvas. All this until Mitchell had achieved what Ciwt, the viewer, experiences as a gloriously colorful, technically excellent, intensely personal poem in paint.
After all Mitchell was raised in poetry. Her mother was a poet and associate (at home) editor of Poetry Magazine, poets like T.S. Eliot were regular visitors at Mitchell's sumptuous childhood home in Chicago where poetry books lined the shelves and were often taken out to be read outloud to young Joan. Joan herself had a poem published in Poetry at age ten and carried poetry books with her in her lifelong transatlantic travels mostly between New York City and France.
|Untitled, 1992, oil on canvas|
For the last thirty years of her life, Mitchell created most of her 'paint poems' in the studio of her rambling stone house at Vetheuil, a farming community on the Seine not far from Giverny. An artist friend at the time called the home Mitchell had bought with her substantial inheritance "the most beautiful place on earth." Claude Monet, who had been smitten by, lived in and painted Vetheuil for three years nearly a century before, clearly agreed.
|Joan Mitchell in her Vetheuil studio|
|The Lake, 1981, oil on canvas|
Mitchell was technically proficient and confident in the latest art techniques (including lithographic prints which she did toward the end) as well as experimental in some of her structures and color juxtapositions. But what she captured with them was ultimately between her and her. They are her memories, her poems carefully crafted in (often expensive) colors that called to her.