Bruce Mitchell
Durham, NC

[Home[Realism] [Abstract] [Collage]





I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and have lived in North Carolina since 2003. I was trained as a draftsman at a trade school, where I learned how to draw machine parts. Almost everything else I know about painting I've figured out at the easel and from books. I paint full time in my Durham studio


Bruce Mitchell

Artist Statement

My realistic, representational paintings are often about living in a mostly human-built environment, which I do. They are part of our ongoing cultural dialogue about our world and our place in it.

I choose the medium of oil painting for its inherent simplicity, lasting physical presence, and distinct individuality. I use traditional methods to create paintings using reference photographs that I take myself, mostly in and around the Triangle area of North Carolina. Now, modern technology makes it easy enough to print a photograph on canvas, and I could do that and then paint over the print – don’t think I haven’t considered it – but to me that more expedient approach would be a good way to produce decor, but not art. I prefer to start with a pencil sketch and paint the old-fashioned way, in multiple layers, refining the composition and the details as I go. My finished paintings may resemble photographs (especially when reproduced on a smaller scale) because I strive for a high level of clarity and detail; they are unmistakably oil paintings, not photographs, and are best experienced in person.

I seek to create paintings capable of evoking an emotional response. Their physical properties and less tangible aspects together support that aim.

My abstract paintings generally come in two flavors: 'crusty' and 'clean.' The crusty variety belong to a long-running series, dating back to the 1980s, and are prepared with oil paint and cold wax medium. They are as non-objective as I can make 'em. The clean (by which I mean 'not crusty') abstract paintings belong to a separate series I've been working on for a long time. Their stylistic precursors also date back to the early '80s, most notably a vocabulary of forms I developed over time by making hundreds of drawings on paper napkins. The central themes are ambiguity and play. The forms have no overt models in the real world, yet they frequently resemble familiar things. The forms typically lack any shading to suggest 3-dimensional shape. Thus, any impression of depth comes from the contrasting colors, the contours of the forms, and their relationship to each other and to the background. The absence of real-world references also introduces ambiguity about scale; the forms could be any size from microscopic to monumental. The viewer is drawn in by the lively colors, then engages in puzzling over what the forms might represent, their scale, and the depth of the picture plane. In this way, the fun of making these paintings is shared with the viewer. 

The collages you see here represent both ongoing practice and a new departure for me. I’ve been making such images for many years, but had been making only a few, now and then. What’s new is a concerted effort to make a sizable, cohesive body of work for a broader public to enjoy. The process of making these collages, as you might expect, involves concentrated examination of discarded books, vintage magazines, photographs, and other ephemera. I cannot explain how or why I know any given element needs to become part of a new image – I just know that it does. When I combine disparate pieces of our printed past and/or present, the result for may be funny, or poignant, or puzzling, or some combination thereof. Obviously, chance (or serendipity, if you prefer) also plays a role, more often than not.

Represented by
R. H. Ballard Gallery
Washington, VA

Featured in the premiere issue of ArtSync: The Art Magazine of North Carolina

ArtSync: The Art Magazine of North Carolina
Available March 2, 2009

Selected exhibitions

Crook's Corner
610 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Solo show (14 paintings)
November 1 through 30, 2016
331 West Main Street
Durham, NC 27701
Group show (20 collages)
September 16 through November 12, 2016
Cameron Gallery at the Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd 
Lakewood Shopping Center
Durham, NC 27707
Invitational group show
May - June 2016
Triangle Community Foundation
324 Blackwell Street, Suite 1220
Durham, NC 27701-3690
Solo show
September 2015 - March 2016  
Bill Hester Fine Art
830 Canyon Rd.
Santa Fe, NM
Signs, Semiotics and Icons
Solo show
June-July 2013

Crook's Corner
610 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Untitled solo show
November 2012
1101 Environ Way
Chapel Hill, NC 27517

Human Nature (solo show)
July - September 2011

Crook's Corner
610 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Untitled solo show
January - March 2011

Durham Art Guild - CCB Gallery
120 Morris St.
Durham, NC 27701

Unscene: Works by Bruce Mitchell and Joanna Welborn
March - April 2010
Somerhill Gallery
The Venable Center
303 S Roxboro St.
Durham, NC 27701
Light and Shadows: A Group Exhibition
July - August 2009
Bill Hester Fine Art
143-F Franklin St.
Chapel Hill, NC
Carolina Semiotics
Solo show
June 2007

Umstead Hotel & Spa
Cary, NC

Picture This - Invitational Art & Photography Exhibit
to benefit Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina
April 2007
Bijou Cinema
110 Front Street
Worcester, MA 01609
Untitled solo show
April 2003
New City Art Gallery
116 Pleasant Street
Easthampton, MA 01027
"Small Works Invitational"
December 2002 - February 2003
West Hartford Public Library
20 South Main Street
West Hartford, CT 06107
Untitled solo show
January - February 2002

Barrett Art Center
55 Noxon Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

"New Directions '02"
October - November 2002
Juried by Joan Young, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim Museum of Art NYC

C.C. Lowell
258 Park Ave
Worcester, MA

Untitled solo show
December 2000 - January 2001
See review from The Worcester Phoenix

Pump House Gallery
Bushnell Park
Hartford, CT

Juried show, 1997
National Arts Program
National Endowment for the Arts
Worcester Artist Group
Worcester, MA
Solo show, 1989
Atwood Gallery
69 Hammond Street
Worcester, MA
Group show, 1989
Gallery 35
35 Institute Road
Worcester, MA
the pARTy (Group show), 1987
Grove Street Gallery
100 Grove Street
Worcester, MA
Various juried shows, 1983-1987

[Read a review]

Bruce G. Mitchell