Born in Chicago, abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell exuded a certain je ne sais quoi that quickly garnered her a dedicated, almost ‘cult following’ after debuting paintings at the famous Ninth Street Show in New York during the 1950s. She was considered a ‘leading young abstract painter’ and exhibited regularly in New York for the next forty years. In Joan Mitchell: Portrait of an Abstract Painter, independent filmmaker Marion Cajori, who specialized in documentaries of artists and the artistic process, depicts Mitchell’s later life in Paris where she discusses prejudices against female abstract artists, the human condition as it relates to painting and her childhood. “I wanted to be a writer, a poet, but I kept on hearing my dad in my ear saying jack of all trades, master of none so I decided ‘painting is what I’ll do.’” The documentary portrays an intimacy that one might find in a home video and a nostalgia that resonates in a way that only an old photograph of the past could evoke. Mitchell lost a battle with lung cancer in 1992 at the age of 67, but through Cajori’s depiction, one is transported to a world that is all Mitchell’s own; devoid of any concept of time, the viewer gets a rare look into Joan’s studio space where she discusses her love of van Gogh and Matisse and the importance of ‘light’ as a vital life-force of a painting. Cajori is able to capture Joan Mitchell’s raunchy, independent nature and way of thinking in a way that turns the documentary into a thesis on abstract expressionism and the human psyche. Joan Mitchell: Portrait of an Abstract Painter is available on Amazon Instant Video and DVD.
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