S+ Stimulant: Donald Mitchell
Since his birth in 1951, Donald Mitchell has always been unique. A late learner, he didn’t speak until he was five. When he was a teenager, his fate took a dramatic turn when he was hit by a bus while crossing a San Francisco street. After the accident, from which he physically recovered, he was diagnosed with moderate mental retardation and schizophrenia.
Largely ostracized from society he was relegated to juvenile detention centers as well as psychiatric facilities. Until an insightful caseworker thankfully recommended him for admission to the Creative Growth Art Center in 1975. Donald has been prolifically creating there ever since.
The ability to express himself through art proved to be a positive and enriching turning point in Donald Mitchell’s life. Finally, able to flow the emotions and ideas previous trapped within him onto the page, he embarked on a highly beneficial period of self-expression.
His early work consisted primarily of obsessively crosshatched fields of lines that covered the page and hid any trace of an underlying image.
Later they evolved and started to reveal the forms that he had buried under these dense marks. Suddenly, faces emerged, appearing like islands out of a murky ocean.
Donald’s work is now filled with these graphic figures which have transformed into the huddled crowds that have become his trademark. Looked at from the upward-gazing perspective of a person on the ground, it is as if the figures are flying overhead, in formation, like a flock of birds.
At Seymour, beyond being fans of the aesthetic of Donald’s art, due to our fascination with the subconscious, his work feels ripe with metaphor and meaning. Through our eyes his creative journey began in darkness and conflict and evolved toward individuation and an emergence of the self.
We also see his work as perhaps offering a glimpse of the trajectory from the personal subconscious to the collective unconscious. Seen as such, Donald’s figures reflect not only himself and his world but are also perhaps representations of ancient peoples, a past populace, a long ago disappeared human lineage, who thanks to his art, are still very much among us.
For more information on the Creative Growth Art Center, please visit: creativegrowth.org
Published: June 10th, 2014