Briefly describe the work you do.
My artistic practice centers on the idea that for the visual to attain the status of “Art” it must be asserted actively in the world, acting as a means of revelation and self-examination relevant to our time. That in its essence Art is a search to produce a means in which to lead a meaningful life. I find such a pursuit has resulted in my working finding form in a wide array of media, where one work or series of works organically leads to the next. My concepts are equally fluid, though I seem to return to the exploration of the ideas of the human mark, the relic, and the impression. I am currently working with animating appropriated digital images that will be the central focus of an installation. I also produce paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, poetry, books, and event scores.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
My background and experience have of course created a strong underlying current in my personal choice of aesthetics, interests, and general temperament. My mother is a visual artist and her presence, support, work, and personal interests have all greatly influenced me. I maintain a deep love of the abstract expressionists and their visual language because of this relationship. My education at both the Rochester Institute of Technology (BFA) and the San Francisco Art Institute have been the impetus for moving across media, beyond painting and drawing. My partner Amanda Schoofs, a composer, vocalist, and visual artist,who I regularly collaborate with, has constantly pushed me to involve myself in approaches I would never have thought I would be part of, including sound, music, writing, and performance. All of this has added up to a love of experimentation and a thirst for new knowledge and experience.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My physical studio is a 10’x10’ room in the back of my apartment. After leaving graduate school I’ve never had a large space, especially when I was living in San Francisco. Often my bedroom was my studio, with every corner filled with ongoing projects. This lack of space necessitated working small and ephemerally. My studio therefore has become a base of operations. At times making occurs within its walls at other times it occurs out in the world, or virtually with no physical manifestation occurring. The idea has been to work everywhere, from the bus to my desk and most importantly in my mind. Since moving to Milwaukee I have a bit more space then I have had in the past. I share my apartment with my partner, Amanda Schoofs, who is a composer, performer, and visual artist. Our apartment is more studio then anything else, full of book shelves (and stacks of books), stashes of artwork, musical instruments (including a baby grand piano, which we lugged up to our second story apartment ourselves), and lots of plants. The kitchen ends up being a communal workspace when one or both of us have deadlines approaching, work consuming the house. As a printmaker I am also apt to work in communal print shops and at residencies when I have the opportunity.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
The entrepreneur. Perhaps it should not have been an unexpected role, but it is one that I still struggle with. As someone who produces visual works for the sake of solitude, reflection, and challenging myself it can be difficult to “sell myself.”
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
The pursuit of Art is a practice, but hopefully never a routine. It is the type of work one does not step away from and with my schedule constantly in flux I get “studio time” in when ever I can. Everything is consumed in its pursuit (The good and the bad): Films, conversations, books, books, books, music, the comedy and tragedy of life, anything and everything visual. Each sensory experience and the very essence of being are raw materials to be digested and regurgitated into new forms and experiences, bones, feathers and all. It is at once the most infuriating and desperate of acts as well as the most satisfying of experiences.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work is always changing. That is perhaps the one constant.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My family and friends have always been huge in actively supporting everything I do. I am constantly reading, with my current interests involving a slew of science fiction, Jean Baudrillard, Brion Gysin, John Kelsey, and anything Dada. The total chaos, horror, and brilliance that is the internet is constantly seeping in to everything I do.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I love to be actively engaged with those around me and also to make some type of tangible difference in the world around me. In addition to an artist I am also an educator at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, which is something I love. Beyond that perhaps an architect, perhaps a doctor.
Paul Mitchell is an artist whose work incorporates the diverse practices of printmaking, photography, painting, sculpture, writing, and performance. His practice involves blending traditional, digital and experimental printmaking techniques across interdisciplinary boundaries. He works from a tradition of art that demands images and objects to assert themselves actively in the world, acting as a means of revelation and self examination.
Paul earned his MFA with honors from San Francisco Art Institute with a focus in Printmaking. He earned his Graduate Certificate in Non-Toxic Printmaking, and his BFA in Printmaking and Painting from Rochester Institute of Technology. Paul has engaged in international exchange studies in Printmaking and Art History at Santa Reparata International School of Art in Florence, Italy. Paul has shown both nationally and internationally, at private galleries and museums, with shows in Canada and Portugal, California, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Wisconsin. His work is held in a number of private collections.
Paul is an Adjunct Professor of Printmaking and foundations at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and has also taught Non-Toxic Printmaking at Rochester Institute of Technology. He lives and works in Milwaukee, WI.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.