At the Intersection of Art and Architecture
Clifford Mitchell’s Aesthetic Approach
Storefront churches, a flock of chattering birds, a meaningful phrase repeated against a plain background: architect and artist Clifford Mitchell told a variety of stories in a distinctive style, using pencil and pen, oil paint, watercolors and collage. An African-American architect and artist born in Alabama, Mitchell spent most of his life in Hartford and West Hartford. The year after graduating cum laude from Hartford Art School, he began winning prizes at regional art exhibitions. He was also one of the first black men in Connecticut to become a registered architect and was responsible for the design, production, and management of numerous architectural projects including the University of Hartford Residential Campus, the School of Engineering Building for the University of Connecticut, and the Berol Corporation Office Building in Danbury.
Architecture is a common theme in Mitchell’s artwork. Even those pieces with titles that seem to evoke nature are often showcases for Mitchell’s interest in buildings. In the collage “Autumn New England,” instead of glorifying the region’s famous fall foliage, Mtichell intersperses drawings of buildings and architectural details with patches of brilliant scraps of orange and red paper. He also frequently painted animals such as “Gregarious Birds,” in which he captured the energy of a small flock. The power of words and phrases are featured in “Zip Code 02120,” in which the phrases “Give us this day” and “and the next day” are repeated.
Mitchell’s art work garnered him fifteen one-man shows over the course of his career, and he won many awards and exhibit at national and regional shows. His art work is in public, private and corporate collections in Connecticut and across the country, including The New Britain Museum of American Art, the Stamford Museum & Nature Center and the Mattatuck Museum, and the Connecticut Historical Society. In 2011, Mitchell’s daughter, Brenda Mitchell-Powell, donated a large collection documenting her father’s work to CHS. To see examples from this collection, go to http://emuseum.chs.org:8080/emuseum/view/objects/asimages/355?t:state:flow=be6fbbe4-3971-41c7-a0c3-17eb032b84a8