Alison Mitchell (b. 1980) is a Canadian figurative artist. Her distinct modern aesthetic features simplified, stylized subjects in vibrant but restrained colour palettes. Her fiber art is made with yarn and a simple wooden rug hooking tool called a punch needle, and her paintings are made with heavy-bodied matte acrylics.
Alison was born and raised in Ottawa and now lives with her young family by the sea in historic 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 international law, she served at NATO in Brussels, at the UN in New York, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and in Washington, D.C. She continues to lecture in international law at Queen’s University.
Alison's studio is on Pelham St. in Old Town Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built around 1760, it may be Lunenburg's oldest house. Visits are by appointment.
Alison has a B.A. in history (Queen's), an LL.B. (Ottawa), and an LL.M. in international legal studies (NYU). She is a member of the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia, the International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers, and Visual Arts Nova Scotia. She teaches punch needle rug hooking at the Lunenburg School of the Arts.
A short film by Tom MacLeod
I didn’t always have this much flaking pink paint on my forearms and bits of yarn in my hair. Before I surrendered to mysterious, persistent whispers to make art, I spent 16 years in a suit, immersed in dark subjects. I interviewed and prepared witness statements for victims of the Darfur conflict who described the slaughter of their children. I rescheduled meetings with senior officials in a war zone because my uniformed escorts had just been killed by roadside bombs. I observed alleged terrorists in jumpsuits hunched over behind two-way mirrors. Over nearly a decade of teaching, I’ve suggested to hundreds of fresh-faced law students that they should be optimistic about the future. But I tossed and turned at night, and contentment, let alone joy, felt elusive.
Making art has helped bring more lightness to my worldview. More than therapy, more than exercise, more than green smoothies. (Though those things have helped too!) To date my work has mostly featured people, but my new collection - Stilleven - reflects my take on an old classic: the still life. I hope the vibrant, simple portraits of some of my favourite objects from the house and flowers from the garden turn a few frowns upside down.
- Alison Mitchell, December 2023