Aly Mitchell lives out past Montoursville, up a little bit of a hill, with her folks and two rambunctious puppies. In the fall, she'll be a senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania as a studio art major, with a focus on oil painting.
The most interesting thing about Mitchell is that she discovered herself as an artist virtually by accident. She said she took an art class in high school during which she did her math homework.
She said, "The first drawing I brought home to my parents surprised them."
APRIL LINE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
She initially was conflicted about attending IUP, saying, "I kind of just went on a whim because I ran out of options," but that she ended up loving it.
She said, "I'm so glad I went there. I don't think I would be where I am if I went somewhere else."
Her work is photorealistic and as such, possessed a quality of eerie, staring, metaphysical beauty.
One of her paintings - of her grandma - is painted from a photograph and is whimsical and funny and just a teensy bit creepy. She painted each pearl of the pearl necklace her grandma wears individually and said, "The rainbow is in those pearls."
The piece evinces a simultaneous mastery and discovery of the craft of painting and Mitchell, herself, is baffled that these paintings are coming out of her. Several times during the interview she said, "It just started coming out of me, I don't know where it came from."
When asked about the photograph itself, she said that she asked her gram to give her a look like "I did something wrong, but you've been there, so you're going to let it go."
Another large painting she has is of a guy, who Mitchell picked on the strength of his beard, wearing a stainless colander on his head. It is playful and weird in a way similar to the piece of her grandma, and she captures the mischief in her subject's eyes.
Photorealism is like reality cubed. So while her paintings are photorealistic, they are heightened - as if she paints in high definition - and there's a kind of surreal quality to her realistic paintings.
Her surrealist sensibility comes out much more obviously in her drawings. Most of these are line drawings done in ink. Some of these are prints. In general, they are things floating off into space carrying other things, as in my favorite example, hot air balloons flying off with sections of an old man's beard. There is a French caption, "Camor de la sagesse eternal," which means "the love of eternal wisdom."
She was a vendor at Liberty Fest in Roaring Branch this past weekend. She sold framed drawings and tiny, handmade dream catchers and crocheted rugs that she made mostly out of recycled or upcycled materials.
Mitchell has done work for a lot of people, but most recently has done work for the local band Clouds Make Sounds. When asked how she knows them, she said - with spunk and a small amount of incredulity - "I guess they just heard about me. We didn't even go to the same school or anything."
She's found herself a little bit overwhelmed by commissioned work this summer. She laughingly recalled that at first, when friends and people asked her to design a tattoo for them, she'd say, "No problem. Ten bucks." Now that her services are in higher demand, she'll say, "You're seriously going to have to give me 50 bucks for that."
She said, however, that it depends on the amount of time she spends and the requested design.
When asked if she has an artist's statement, she said that she's "in a really experimental phase right now," and that she's not even sure what her work will look like next year. She said she hopes to go on to graduate school, so that she can teach fine art at the college level and that she wouldn't mind returning to Williamsport, in fact, she does not want to go too far away.
Mitchell is certainly a homegrown artist from whom to expect big things. Her energy and work ethic and loyalty to home and family are evident in her affect as well as in her work. She acknowledged that staying in this area after school is advantageous because she has a handful of cities nearby enough to commute for the benefits of making and selling art, but she seemed very engaged with her family, and very comfortable in her home, which is a rare thing for a person who is newly 20.