Spiva comes alive with the work of Linda Mitchell
January 12, 2011

Atlanta artist Linda Mitchell points out the type of fabric she chose for her stuffed animal version of Louis XIV. Mitchell created regal clothing for this long-eared character whom she calls a "luscious creature." He stands on a dias flanked by eight mixed media paintings on wood (some of them seen) in part depicting scenes from the artist's adventures.

Memory, fantasy and mystery are being used to describe the artwork of Linda Mitchell and the focus of her show that is lighting up the walls of the main gallery of the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts. Capitalizing on a background in both painting and sculpture, Mitchell has used a bit of this and a bit of that to create very personal landscapes that she hopes to share with everyone.

"Art in the Afternoon" was held at Spiva on January 8, 2011 as an opportunity to meet Mitchell up close and personal as she described her art. Those who took advantage of the opportunity were enthralled by both her seriousness and whimsy.

Spectators appear before Quartet: Rhino, one of the artist's largest paintings, a four-part work with one central image--the rhino. Depicted also is a lake house for which she has fond memories and a pansy, one of her favorite motifs.

A close examination of her work finds bits of chair parts, pieces of fabric, and lots of glimpses into her own spiritual life. Many animals, some first modeled from her son's Play-Doh, and others from the Atlanta Zoo like the rhino that has become a narrative figure are represented as animals she says she wants to preserve and protect. She says she loves animal expressions especially when they appear almost human.

One may find a suggestion of nostalgia--like the little bird in one painting that she says was part of her childhood experience or the recreation of her father's hat that especially represents a lot of personal emotion to her. Starting with a textured canvas and using fabric layers that she said were reflective of the memory and mystery of life, she explained how in one piece she started with a figure, then conceived a doll house that appears misty and unfinished because it was one she never got in real life.

Symbols like the Roman aqueduct as well as the interweaving of things she said she had saved forever--symbols of permanence-- all have become part of a piece called "Who on Earth Are You Thinking" created after her fear/terror of losing her Atlanta studio in an old mill warehouse to condos.

The dichotomy of Mitchell's work is shown in these two paintings as in her life: one showing a darker side, a fear for things taken away or damaged and the other more pleasing reminiscences of what was or could have been.

"I'm always celebrating things I find beautiful," Mitchell told the group standing in front of a painting that depicted her fondness for a lake house in north Georgia that she used to admire from afar. It was a melancholic moment for her. She rendered it in its original form although it didn't survive de-construction.

"There's so much beauty that people overlook," Mitchell said. "I just want to show it to them...I don't like to leave things behind."

Using toy imagery Mitchell says she hopes to speak to each person viewing her work by touching the child within. She said her work had been considered "healing" and that several pieces now hang in an assisted living home.

But not all of her work is "sweetness and light" or sugary sentimentality. A nightmare figure might make a statement in one corner of a painting or in the one with the doll house she said she added a "winter tree stark against the sky to take away too much sweetness" that appeared.

"I never work at one painting at a time," Mitchell said. With the canvases on the floor she says she works intuitively at first and waits for "the facility to find the envelope later."

Mitchell gives credit to her love of reading. "It makes you pay attention to detail," she said. "Words float through my mind to create the images."

The show will run until February 27, 2011. Spiva is located at 3rd and Wall in Joplin. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1-5 p.m.

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