Nancy Markiewicz Mitchnick was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1947. She studied at Wayne State University and moved to New York in 1973. In the 80’s she exhibited her work with Hirschl and Adler Modern, and has shown work nationally throughout her career.
She was a full time member of the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts for ten years, and is currently the Rudolph Arnheim Lecturer on Studio Arts at Harvard University. Nancy Mitchnick has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant, and a National Endowment for the Arts award. Most recently she was a recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award, at Harvard College.
–Source: CUE Art Foundation
I was invited to take a drawing course at Arts and Crafts and was horrified at the kind of work I produced. I wanted to draw like Michelangelo. I knew nothing about contemporary art. Naturally I loved Van Gogh, but I hated these drawings that couldn’t be controlled in a proper way. Other people liked them. I didn’t get it.
There was a graduate student living a few doors down who was an extraordinary abstract-based image maker. His wife was my friend, and she insisted that he see the drawings. I was incredibly embarrassed.
Michael Luchs gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten. He said, “ You draw like a painter. You should paint and learn to draw as you go along.”
I thought he was nuts.
—Nancy Mitchnick: Written History
What I learned about teaching is about stretch, about being uncomfortable in uncharted territory. We want our students to get brighter, radiant, more alive with curiosity as they gain experience. But most teachers play It safe. We teach what we know, what we are sure of, and we try to apply their individual needs to our own model. Our small organized system. You can’t teach art and want your students to be brave and wild, if you are not brave and wild, at least in some ways. Students respond deeply when you are out on a ledge, and the contradiction is that you also have to be rock solid…
Figuring out surprising ways to connect subjects to action is endlessly compelling. Making work that has to do with a state of mind helps create an abstract lexicon. And students respond to the innovative. People still want to paint Chianti bottles with dripping wax. This is not good news. The power of emotional content should be allowed even in the beginning of the study of painting and drawing.
–Nancy Mitchnick, A Rambling on Teaching
In 2012, Mitchnick returned to Detroit opening a studio in Hamtramck. 20 of her recent paintings were shown at the Scarab Club exhibition “Time Travel” based on significant artworks that inspired Mitchnick throughout her life. Her work was humorously interpretive; John Singleton Copley’s Watson and the Shark in the DIA collection is pictured above. Her painting “A Bowl of Joints” was shown in the 50th Anniversary of the Artists’ Workshop “Roots and Branches” exhibition at the Center Galleries at CCS.
“Mitchnick, an artist who lives firmly in paint, creates work derivative of nothing but painting. Her paintings examine what they are made of, brushwork and color, but Mitchnick, while certainly expressionistic in her style, is no action painter. She swings narrative and illusion around her head like a sack of rocks, wedding it to a painting style that, in its sometimes deceptive, downright naive-looking roughness, begins to speak powerfully of something beyond itself, proving its dexterity in melting into the styles of its venerable grandfathers, as in her “covers” of paintings by Van Gogh and Cezanne. Every gesture acts as a reverent, closely observed homage to its parent gesture, the whole enterprise astonishingly free of hubris and rich with pleasure. In her detail covers, which focus on certain parts of well-known Baroque paintings, she subjects the old masters to a wild, skillful translation into her own language. The results offer more complex and spot-on observations the closer one looks.” — Clara DeGalan: Time Travel Painting and Trouble in ARTHOPPER.ORG
“A few years ago, Detroit-born painter Nancy Mitchnick began working on a series of canvases inspired by her hometown. Living at the time in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mitchnick had left the Motor City long ago, relocating to New York in mid-1970s, then moving to California to teach at CalArts in the late 1980s, and ending up at Harvard, where she held the position of Arnheim Lecturer on the Visual Arts for more than a decade. “The Detroit Project,” as she called this series of paintings, prompted her to move back to the Motor City earlier this year to live and work.”
— Source: Vincent Carducci, Motown Review of Art: Painting Future Past
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