Artists from Visions of Yore: Erin Mitchell

Get ready for some posts featuring our artists selected for the upcoming show, Visions of Yore.

First up…Erin Mitchell.

Black and Blue, 2010, Silkscreen on paper, 30 x 40 inches

Erin explores the disorientation and distortion linked to the psychosomatic experience of trauma. She creates forms and spaces that re-envision this complex experience, often aligning themes of the unharnessed chaos and force of natural disaster with the memory and intimate experience of personal “disaster.” Mitchell’s work plays on the lines between abstract and figural, excitement and agitation, and seduction and violence. While often evoking a paralyzing fear of immobility or emptiness, these pieces also flash and rupture with a manic vulnerability – and a strikingly human pulse.

Her process is often key to its conceptual fabric. Her pieces start with the instant transfer of pulling a silkscreen print. This action is recorded as a snapshot in time, a mark of something that has happened, but lingers, physically, on the page. The rest of piece is built out from the visceral and emotional response to this moment, like a recurring dream or memory that continues to seep into and intervene in our present thought and action. In her pieces Black and Blue, manipulated silkscreen monotype is the only technique used, while Agape features a steady build-up of different media (including ink, graphite, colored pencil, gouache, and watercolor in addition to its preliminary silkscreen) and of detail that mirrors the conceptual revisiting and rehashing of memory.Conceptually, both pieces speak to the high drama of memory, where even a small incident can swirl like an impending whirlwind. Our personal tribulations take on an ego of their own; as a result, we become isolated in the wasteland of the past, trying again to make sense of the pieces. Agape addresses the simultaneous aggression and futility of this experience, building and building upon a gaping wound, all at once vulnerable, intimate, violent and sad. In Black and Blue, Mitchell plays within the dissociation of the body and individual, and of the experience of feeling like a stranger in your own skin or at war with your own body.

Pulling from her own experience of personal illness, she wanted to address the feeling of fighting a monster in your own skin; of trying to continue to feel in control of your life, identity, and well-being in the face of debilitating illness. In this series of work, the image of the mouth acts as the embodiment of this struggle. Our crucial vehicle for sustenance, self-expression, and seduction, it absorbs all the chaos of this conflict as it distorts, decays, and begins to rip apart under the pressure.


Agape, 2011, silkscreen and mixed media on mylar
36 x 55 inches

While her work illustrates a kind of agitation or aggression, it also alludes a static, untouchable quality, as if the images depicted were film stills of memory. Like memory, they hover over the course of our present actions and decisions, regardless of how we push them back into the past. We respond to these memories although they have been laid to rest, when in truth, they are written into the very fiber of who we are: our very flesh, blood, bone, and heart.

Erin Mitchell is an emerging artist whose works on paper explore the influence of trauma in distorting individual memory and perception. After receiving her BFA in Printmaking and Drawing from Washington University in St. Louis, her work has been featured in a number of exhibitions, including the American Youth Printmaking Exhibition under the 2011 Shanghai Youth Biennial, in Shanghai, China; and exhibitions juried by Franklin Sirmans, Chief Curator of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Mark Pascale, Curator of Drawings and Prints, Art Institute Chicago; Anne Coffin, Director, International Print Center New York (IPCNY); and Elizabeth Wyckoff, Curator of Drawings, Prints, and Photographs, St. Louis Art Museum.

She currently lives and works in San Francisco, California.

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