ALBANY — During his four-decadelong career, Dean Mitchell, of Tampa, Florida, has become known for his figurative works, landscapes and still life works. “Looking at America and Painting How I Want, What I Want and How I See It,” an exhibition of works by the Pittsburgh native, opens Jan 9. in the East Gallery of the Albany Museum of Art.
The exhibition will continue through March 28.
“I was happy to be introduced to Dean Mitchell’s work through the AMA Exhibitions Committee,” Curator Didi Dunphy said.
Dunphy describes Mitchell as “a skilled artist engaged in the romance of the land through paint and brush, yet challenging the very nature of that subject.” He is well-accomplished in egg temperas, oils and pastels.
“His poetic urban and rural scenes are rich in tone, but vibrate with the desolation of so much of America’s landscapes,” Dunphy said. “Beautifully rendered, deprived neighborhoods and structures — populated by an occasional figure in these vacant environs — remind us of diminishing humanity.”
Mitchell, who earned his MFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design in Columbus, Ohio, maintains a deep connection with Quincy, Fla., a small industrial city where he was raised and inspired by his grandmother.
“I’m looking for freedom, regardless of painting styles and labels imposed on artists in regards to race and ethnic origins, total freedom to explore my full potential as an artist,” Mitchell said.
AMA Executive Director Andrew James Wulf said that “Mitchell’s work hums with a deep respect for the humanity and heartbeat of his subjects, portraits of the real people and places he knows. His courage to paint so originally what he sees around him reveals unvarnished truths we all share. To experience his work is a gift and a necessity.”
Dunphy notes that Mitchell’s own story “is one of unusual pursuit and admirable accomplishments.”
“An African-American man growing up in a depressed small city during the civil rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s with the vision of being a fine artist was not the common path,” she said. “He speaks of his grandmother pushing him not to waver in his pursuit, encouraging him to attend his art studies.
“Since then, his work has been collected by many prestigious museums and has received numerous accolades, including meeting the Obamas and being considered as a portrait artist for the 44th president. A small snapshot of Mitchell at the White House hangs on the wall at his Quincy location — aptly named after his grandmother — the Marie Brooks Gallery.”
Mitchell has been featured in publications including The New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Southwest Art, Art of the West, American Artist, Western Art Collector, Artists Magazine, Fine Art International, Art News, The Art of Watercolour Magazine, Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine, and The Outwin: American Portraiture Today at the National Portrait Gallery.
His art can be found at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas; Canton Museum of Art, Canton, Ohio; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Margaret Harwell Art Museum, Poplar Bluff, Missouri; Rockwell Museum, Corning, New York; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, Kansas; Beach Museum of Art, Manhattan, Kansas; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona; Gadsden Art Center, Quincy, Florida; Whitney Western Art Museum, Cody, Wyoming; Mississippi Art Museum, Jackson, Mississippi; St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri; the Library of Congress, and the Quanhua Art Museum in China.
In his long career, Mitchell has garnered more than 600 awards, including the T.H. Saunders International Artists in watercolor competition in London, the American Watercolor Society Gold and Silver Medals, the National Watercolor Society Masters Award, the Allied Artist of American Gold Medal in Watercolor and Oil, and the Thomas Moran Award from the Salmagundi Club in New York.
Also opening Jan. 9 at the museum is “Do Not Hand Me Over to the Impure Whiteness of Noon: A Hemings Elegy,” works by Yanique Norman, which will be in the West Gallery through March 28.