Linda Mitchell’s interest in art began at a young age. She said that she couldn’t recall a time before she had an interest in creating art. Her sister would bug her as a child to come outside to roller-skate and play, but she would often decline in order to spend more time making art. She busied her childhood with inventing imaginary creatures and reading, earning her the childhood nickname of “Miss Art” or “Miss Read.” She remembers taking her mother’s old wooden sewing spools and attaching materials to them to create eyes and legs. Her childhood imagination and love for reading sparked her obsession with creating real and fabricated creatures, an interest that remains essential to work today.
Animals and imagined creatures fill the boundaries of nearly all of Linda’s work. Linda has yet to lose the imagination she cultivated as a child and focuses much, if not all, of her work on real and imagined creatures. Animals capture her attention and interest far more than the human figure or landscapes. She finds animals fascinating with their spots, fur, and horns, and in Linda’s opinion, animals have a way of tugging at the heart of the viewer more authentically than human figures can. Animals speak to the child within (an ideal Linda strives for in all of her work) and display a sincerity that is too often masked or marred in human interaction. Unlike with humans, she believes that we allow animals speak into our hearts without reservation, and for this reason, she uses them as her main vessel of communication with the viewer.
Linda is drawn to the surreal and the expressionist movements in the history of art. Artists such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, and Yves Tanguy continue to inspire her to search the far reaches of her imagination. She admires Frida Kahlo for her personal story and is drawn to the animal elements of Franz Marc’s paintings. Yet often she must tell her influences to “move over,” an experience with which many artists can relate. Linda stated, “sometimes I do something that reminds me of one of my inspirations, but I just have to say, ‘move over,’ because I am going to do whatever it is that reminds me of that artist, although it always ends up being much more of my kind of work. At a certain point you’re afraid do let yourself be influenced by other people, until you realize it’s not a bad thing. No one is making art in a vacuum. We are all pulling inspiration from somewhere.”
Music also serves as a powerful source of inspiration for Linda; with a husband who is a musician, music surrounds her daily life and studio practice. Listening to music that inspires her is a critical part of her artistic process.
Linda creates as a means of maintaining her sanity. Like exercising or eating right, engaging in the making of art is an essential practice for Linda’s good health and wellbeing. She stated simply, “I need to express this stuff to get all the crazies out. I need to tell all the stories I make inside my head.” Linda pursued art in college and went on to earn two masters, one in painting and the other in sculpture. She mentioned that many people stop making art after school but for her that was never an option. She has an innate need to express what’s inside of her head—her emotions and imaginings. Linda stated, “I must express my stories. I must make something. I feel really good when my hands are busy.” She uses art making as a way of digesting her emotions and examining the world around her. The viewer can easily see her mind and emotions in each piece she creates.
Linda begins each of piece as she feels fit. In her recent piece, Quartet Wombat, exhibited at the Linda Matney Gallery, she planned ahead knowing what creature, colors, and imagery she wanted to capture. Yet other times, she starts with a panel or canvas and puts down a color and then throws it around her studio, letting accidents and chance inform her next move. She finds this method to be more intuitive because she discovers the creature through the process. Linda paints both from observation and imagination. When given the chance she will sit at the zoo and observe the creatures that grab her attention. Other times she will use reference photographs and yet (and more often than not) she will search her imagination to inspire her creatures. In 2010 she painted a series of realistic elephants and rhinos in an effort to honor and preserve them. She painted them simply because she was thrilled they still exist and wanted to preserve them as emissaries of a vanishing wilderness. Yet, over the years her focus has evolved from representational animals to imagined, odd creatures, which she lovingly calls, “monsters.” In the recent show at the Linda Matney Gallery, she displayed a human-sized Closet Monster, an idea of paradoxes inside her head. Closet Monster speaks both of comfort and fear. He is the comfort of one’s fears, made of soft material and placed among the clouds. The viewer is left wondering if he is a friend or foe. The unknown tells the story.
Recently, Linda has taken a strong interest in capturing patterns. She is most excited about her two new tapestry pieces exhibited at the Linda Matney Gallery. She sewed them together with no idea or intention of what they might become. She is drawn to the patterns of the fabric and stiches and intends to keep exploring the theme of patterning in her paintings as well. She enjoys the game the eyes play with patterns: a visual reverberation across the repeated elements. In addition to her sewn tapestries, she has developed an interest in mixed media, particularly and most recently a combination of pastels layered on paintings. She likes the childlike sensibility that the chalk creates on top of paint. It serves as an added reminder of her main ideal: finding the child within.
Art making to Linda is a double-layered process. She creates first for herself and secondly for the viewer. She first engages in making the work in order to get all that is inside her head out. Next she presents the work, as with the recent show at the Linda Matney Gallery, hoping to connect to the viewer’s hidden child. She creates emotive work that searches for the (all too often forgotten) child within each of us and she is thrilled when the child inside the viewer is found. It is the validation and purpose of her creations.