Mitchell, Susannne A
My work draws from my life experiences traversing continents and cultures between Malawi and the United States. Through marriage and motherhood, I am united with an African family and a way of life vastly different from my own. I am interested in the phenomena of re-entry shock: the brief period of time after returning ‘home’ from a foreign place, when the mundane, unnoticed and familiar are fleetingly exposed to consciousness. My work contains figurative elements and range from large-scale mixed media drawing/installations to intimate, miniature paintings, which often integrate photography and printmaking. Through these media I examine and recombine elements that become a lexicon of signifiers that reference history, race, class, family systems, home, and globalization.
In a series of work collectively titled Crossing Into, I used a fabric called ‘chitenje’ cloth that was collected from a village in Malawi where my extended family lives. The women use these fabrics as clothing and for many other functions in domestic life. These cloths bear the traces of their extensive use and are therefore imbued with a life–force, which I sought to honor in the work. The history and spirit in the cloth is used as a counterpoint to images from the Victorian Era, which are printed and drawn on top or emerge from behind through rents in the fabric. The superimpositions create an ambiguous relationship between what the fabrics represent and the symbolism of the images imposed upon them, and relate to the complicated and painful history of colonialism in Malawi. In this work, these physical and metaphysical references to the past are used as a means to contemplate current issues and future developments in Africa.
In this and other series of works, I am interested in the materiality of the objects and photographs. I remove them from their original context and recombine them in my artworks, in order to reinvestigate their meaning and reveal something honest about our common human experiences.
Susanne Mitchell is a visual artist, whose works combine painting, drawing, photography and printmaking. Born in New York in 1973, Mitchell received an MFA in printmaking from the University of Colorado at Boulder (2007) and a BFA in painting and drawing from California College of the Arts (1996). She has served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Metropolitan State University of Denver and as a Lecturer of Art at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, including at the Craft and Folk Art Museum (Los Angeles), the Academy of San Carlos (Mexico City) and the National University of Colombia (Medellín, Colombia).
Susanne Mitchell has been in the Artnaut since 2013.