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  • Malisa Payne

Capturing Heart: The Work of Artist Dean Mitchell

I recently ran across the work of a man that is remarkably talented at capturing the heart of people. He has an arresting ability to celebrate his life and the lives of so many that he comes in contact with. I encountered the art of Dean Mitchell at the Cutter and Cutter Fine Art Gallery in St. Augustine, FL, and when I did my day actually slowed down. His warm intimate images halted my pace. I felt the need to spend time looking the art over. I was drawn into them and longed to sit on the porch with the characters he depicted.

Dean Mitchell is an award winning African American artist that uses watercolor to express the experiences of his people. He also has a passion for honoring the poor. He describes some of his work as “Rich in Spirit”; and “Poverty and the Human Spirit Garden”.

While there is such a wealth of dignity in each of the lives he frames, my favorite painting of Mitchell’s is entitled, At Peace. When I see the woman’s face in At Peace I instantly connect with her wealth of faith and know in my heart that we share a reliance on God. This piece is also very special to Mitchell. He writes the following about it in his book, Of Southern Passions, Paintings, and Poems.

“My grandmother achieved such a tranquil, peaceful plane of existence toward the end that I knew it was her time. She glowed and showed a beauty that belied her coming death. Absolute Faith is a wonderful thing,” writes Mitchell.

Mitchell's work has moved many people. Upon seeing Dean’s work for the first time, Poet Dennis Smith wrote the following about the painting below entitled, Ebony Dancer.

My Love, you started it all:

Love at first sight – written on the wall.

My heart raced,

As I gazed at your face.

My stomach climbed into my throat.

I studied intently but found not one single clue

To give me even a little hint of what to do.

I turned to leave, thinking it better not to know,

But my adrenaline rushed, I could not go.

Your flawless beauty and striking presentation

Awed and perplexed me and caused my hesitation.

You were the princess of the ball; the queen of the show.

You would laugh at the thought of stooping so low,

As to be seen in the company of some ordinary Joe.

Fueled by a fear that flamed my soul so,

I knew I had to find out; I had to know.

You had the repose of an angel; you had a heavenly glow.

You had captured my heart; you had me in tow.

I knew I had to find out; I had to know.

You brought me freedom: I escaped my shell,

I could not foresee nor possibly foretell

That your impact on me would be without parallel.

How do the brush strokes of Dean Mitchell speak to you?


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