A strikingly beautiful woman, animated even through the veil of a mask, lit up by life and art and the realization of a dream, Denise Mitchell appeared in her element. But, as we stood together, in front of “I Am In You,” a beautiful piece that depicts a lady within the body of a lion, she spoke candidly about how her journey as an artist has been one of constant self-questioning.
“I started the piece 10 years ago,” Denise told me. “At the time, I didn’t know where I was going. When I’d look at the piece, all I could see were its flaws. But, as I worked with it, this piece began to speak to me about the way I was perceiving myself and life and others. It was as if the work said ‘Stop focusing on shortcomings.’”
I’ve been to a lot of art shows over the years and Denise Mitchell’s “I Am In You” is the most exquisite work of art I’ve ever seen. Imagine a woman nestled within the body of a lion, both of them with an unrestrained mane of hair, both lithe, primal, beautiful and strong. The piece is backlit by a crescent moon, evoking the twin specters of Earth and sky. It’s gorgeous. Quite possibly, because I am in a time of intense inner transition, “I Am In You” brought me to tears.
The lady in the lion is a testament to the beautiful ferocity that exists within each of us. It speaks to the constant human struggle between strength and insecurity and the interconnected nature of vulnerability and power. Denise once thought about destroying the beautiful work of art. She told me, though, that it was when she became willing to engage with her piece’s perceived imperfections that she discovered beauty, in her work and in herself.
“I created this piece in a time of inner turmoil,” she said. “I was searching to find my peace and, with ‘I Am In You,’ I discovered peace and rest but also oneness, strength, and courage.”
It is courageous to follow our passions in life, in order to do so, we have to be willing to question our perceptions of who we think we’re supposed to be. Questioning is something Denise does a lot of as a mixed-media artist. Every time she enters her studio, she enters into an intense process that involves constant questioning. “The main conversation is between me and God,” she explained. “I also love listening to various teachings, scientific information, and social commentary. I want to question everything. I’ve discovered that truth isn’t afraid of a question.”
It is fitting that Denise would title her pop-up art show “Earth As It Is… Question Everything.” If you step into the beautifully laid out space, you’ll notice that, on the right side, all of the pieces are grounded in nature and Earth. On the left side of the exhibition, everything is celestial and otherworldly. Entering into the exhibition is an invitation to enter into the idea that reality is expansive.
I think it is very fitting that, alongside each picture, the artist has posted a printed quote. Just beneath “I Am In You,” below the lady in the lion and the crescent moon that ensconces and illuminates them, is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. The quote reads: “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”
Denise Mitchell’s art will challenge and inspire you to find your internal essence. I felt beyond fortunate to be able to bask in all of Denise’s beautiful pieces and was moved to tears looking at some of them, but for me, it has been “I Am In You” that has felt potentially life-changing. I would be interested to hear, when you stop by and see the artist’s work for yourself, which pieces move you to question yourself and discover the beauty that exists within.
To check out this free exhibition, “Earth As It Is… Question Everything,” and to meet the artist who is there daily until October 31, 2020, go to 6825 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119. Just call 267-818-3997 15 minutes ahead to schedule. The art show is covid compliant and the artist herself will give you a masked guided tour.