It's a long time ago and I'm probably forgetting any mention of her when I was in school, but somehow within the past eight years, since I've been living in western Mass., I discovered the work of Joan Mitchell - no thanks to any academics - and became very enthusiastic about it, although without having any desire to paint the way she did. That's probably because I knew I would fail, mostly because her work has a fierce emotional content that I would be incapable of bringing to a painting.
Hudson River Day Line, 1955
Cheim Some Bells, 1964
Mitchell was apparently a "difficult" person (real pain in the ass) who drank way too much, had a long-term love/hate relationship with another painter (Jean-PierreRiopelle), loved dogs, spent most of her adult life in a house on the Seine 30 miles from Paris and made large-scale, many times multi-canvas, paintings continuously for 40 years or so. She was reasonably successful although nowhere near what she would have been if she had only had that other appendage.
After April, Bernie, 1987
Through all the misery and frustrations of her relationships with friends and lovers plus the numerous deaths of friends, relatives and dogs that she suffered and along with her severe health problems and active alcoholism, she kept painting - sometimes raging away at the canvas or expressing less violent emotions that she was unable to release any other way. Her tenacity and commitment to her work despite all this were remarkable, as was her refusal to make paintings in a more manageable size. She must have had a tremendous physical struggle that included having to get a studio assistant to squeeze paint from tubes due to the arthritis in her hands (per Kertess).
She had several cancers at the end of her life, eventually dying of lung cancer in 1992 at age 66. Although suffering excruciating pain, she continued to paint large works until very near her death.
Yves, 1991 (110 1/4" H x 78 3/4"W - that's 12 feet high x 6.5 feet wide)
I have included images of Mitchell's paintings from five decades showing the variety of styles in which she painted. Not included are any of the 21 Grande Vallee' paintings, a series painted over 13 months beginning after the death of her sister in 1982. Painting was an act that allowed Mitchell to transcend death. She said, "Painting is the opposite of death, it permits one to survive, it also permits one to live." (Livingston, p 63)
* Amazon.com lists the Kertess book as only available used from other sellers and starting at $275! I know I didn't pay that shocking price, but it is a great book. Maybe it's available at your art school library - it should be.