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Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine

Jo Mitchell: The Feel of Color

Jan 08, 2019 01:33PM ● By Tracy McCoy

Electric. The intensity in paintings by Jo Mitchell is electric. You may find they knock you off balance – the color, the movement and the complexity of abstract expressionism – if so, you’re not alone. But it may surprise you to find out these images are deeply personal. Get ready. Let go of the “inspired” landscapes and “touching” creations you normally think of as art to consider things from her point of view.

Jo spent years writing for several newspapers in the New England area. She worked as a columnist, a correspondent, a staff writer and investigative reporter. When asked about her career, Jo said, “At the time, I was thinking of it as an exciting and purposeful means of supporting two kids. It was intense and difficult, but I learned a lot about the nature of people.”

Her emotional reactions, though, throughout her career, both as a journalist and later as victims’ advocate for the courts, belonged in the back seat. Her job was to be clear, objective. It required stripping the “personal” from the picture.

Eventually, her chance came to get “in touch” with things herself. She puts that out there, now. “This is what I feel as I paint: how some colors feel comfortable together and a subtle blending makes me smile; how others vie for the same space and yell at me because I make them sit side by side. What stays with me is insistence upon integrity and a willingness to search inside myself for artistic truths.” Her colors are characters, part of life’s drama.

As a reporter, a victim’s advocate, and artist, integrity and truth have remained central to her work. In this age of disputes about the truth, it’s something to consider.

She describes the difference between abstract expressionism and representational art in this way: “Traditional painters paint what they see. Or their subjective version of what they see. And I try to paint (pause) an essence. Not how something looks, but how I feel about what it is. So, if I have something called Volcano, it doesn’t look like any volcano, but it feels that way – with the energy and the color, that it is volcanic.”

Jo’s paintings, conceived as they are from the inside, fit into the world of interpretations and ideas. They grasp conflict and turmoil. They free us to wrestle, too. Again, her past work created an objective synopsis that respected the truth, that worked to find it; she put it out there for the public. And her work now is about reflection, imagination and expression from her gut, her intellect.

Look at the world today – our world – and then think back to the world she was covering in the 70’s and 80’s. I can’t help but wonder how Jo is processing the “fact” controversies that surround us now. Increasingly, “news” is a mask, a cover, for ideology. Where is the balance—where is the truth? (My opinion: It’s there. We just have to look harder to find it.)

Her painting, Chaos, is, well, chaos. Collision, is, well—BOOM—a collision. Collateral damage…. You get the picture. The titles are clues to internalize events. The Quinlin Visual Arts Center in Gainesville will hold a show of Jo’s work from April 11th to June 1 in the Green Street Gallery. Her website is

By Susan Brewer

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