The Chicago-born abstract expressionist artist Joan Mitchell (Second Generation if that is important), has seemingly lost some of the aesthetic respect during her lifetime due to the fact she emotion-driven themes rather than conceptual issues. According to Baltimore Museum Curator Katy Siegel, “It’s really important that we’re able to see paintings now by people who are not the same 20 white men…We’re coming to a place where we can say that people can be brilliant intellectuals and artists without being conceptual…Music, poetry, feeling love for friends, dogs—the things that moved Mitchell, we are more open to valuing again.”
Joan Mitchell defined her process and her studio practices within this phrase: “Abstract is not a style. I simply want to make a surface work…I am happy when I’m painting. I like it.” What more do we, the audience and prospective patron, need from our artists? Isn’t Mitchell’s statement enough? Mitchell was a successful woman artist for over four decades. She showed in prestigious galleries, museums and was collected by patrons of the highest reputation. Mitchell was prolific and dedicated to her studio. Today her work, at auction, sells in the millions of dollars or Euros!
Mitchell was an important contributor and an early member of the famed New York School! As a woman artists, Mitchell “achieved the type of success that eluded many of her female peers, becoming immediately recognized for her artistic talent. She has been somewhat eclipsed by her male counterparts in the decades since—but that may be changing.”
For me, the real question is why so much fuss about being “Conceptual” at the expense of not recognizing being in the presence of an artist who had something to say and who had been saying it for over four decades! “It’s great when women and people of color get what they deserve…It’s too bad that it so often happens after they’re gone.” (Katy Siegel)