Alison Mitchell is a Canadian figurative artist. Her work features simplified, stylized subjects and a carefully limited colour palette. Her paintings are made with vibrant, heavy bodied acrylics and her fibre art is made with yarn using centuries-old rug hooking and embroidery techniques.
Alison was born and raised in Ottawa and now lives with her young family in the seaside town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Prior to becoming an artist, she spent 16 years as a diplomat and legal advisor with Canada's foreign ministry. Specialized in human rights and the law of armed conflict, she served at NATO in Brussels, at the UN in New York, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and in Washington, D.C. Before joining the Government of Canada, she worked as legal counsel at the International Criminal Court in the The Hague. She continues to lecture in international law at Queen’s University.
Alison's studio is located at 80 Pelham St. in the heart of Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built around 1760, it may be the oldest house in the town. Visits are by appointment.
Alison is a member of the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia, the International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers, and Visual Arts Nova Scotia. She has a B.A. (Queen's), an LL.B. (Ottawa), and an LL.M. (NYU).
You can find selected original work at the Lunenburg Art Gallery and the Smith + Smith gallery.
I want everyone to feel better and I suspect that three layers of hot pink paint might help.
I spent a lot of time immersed in dark subjects during my former career. I interviewed and prepared witness statements for victims of the Darfur conflict who described in detail the slaughter of their children. I rescheduled meetings with senior foreign officials because the soldiers meant to escort me there had just been killed by roadside bombs. I observed alleged terrorists in jumpsuits hunched over in despair behind two-way mirrors. I told fresh-faced law students that optimism about the future was justified but worried that I was selling them a false bill of goods. Plus, I've always been excellent at imagining every possible horrible outcome in a given situation but becoming a lawyer turned me into a professional.
One day I came across a German term that seemed to capture a good part of what ailed me: weltschmerz. The pain of the world. (Shout-out to the German language for giving this affliction a name.) In recent years I've worked hard to bring more lightness to my worldview despite my weltschmerz, which of course exists alongside life's other slings and arrows. I found that cultivating an appreciation of relaxed moments helped, providing a sort of counterweight to the dread. My current work thus highlights these kinds of moments using colour combinations that I find inexplicably interesting or revealing. I hope that you enjoy it. It was a privilege to make.
- Alison Mitchell, 2023