BY ALICE GORMAN – Who is Joan Mitchell? She is not Joni Mitchell, the pop singer of “Both Sides Now” fame. If you are an artist, you very likely know about the abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell. If you are an art history student, a curator, a critic or an American art collector, you are no doubt part of the ever-widening circle of people who believe that Joan Mitchell is one of the outstanding artists of the 20th century. If you are simply a reader who loves a compelling story and appreciates a passionate narrative, you will want to come and hear about Joan Mitchell from the author Robin Lippincott.
“Blue Territory: A Meditation on the Life and the Art of Joan Mitchell” by Lippincott, Tidal Press, is far more than a biography of a famous, yet relatively unknown artist. Although the book traces Mitchell’s life from a young figure skater in Chicago to an art student to an impoverished ex-pat living in Paris to an important female painter in a male-dominated art world, it is constructed as if it were a series of poetic portraits brought together for a gallery exhibition. The portraits answer questions pertaining to her character as well as her art. Who was she? What were her deepest feelings? What did her art mean to her? “Joan of Art,” Lippincott called her as he lovingly recreated her life and her art in short, shimmering chapters.
Author of three novels and a collection of short stories, Lippincott’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Paris Review, Fence, American Short Fiction and other publications. For ten years he wrote reviews of art and photography books for The New York Times Book Review. Further revealing his lifetime love of art, his novel, “Our Arcadia,” is crafted with short, colorful brushstrokes that have been compared to an impressionist painting.
Lippincott lives in Cambridge, Mass. and currently serves as a teacher of fiction in the low-residency Spalding University Master of Fine Arts in Writing program in Louisville, Ky. His presentation of “Blue Territory: A Meditation on the Life and Art of Joan Mitchell” will be given at the Johann Fust Library at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 10. A reception will follow. The event is free and open to the public.