Jonét Mitchell is a 22-year-old, multidimensional creative and college student at THE Ohio State University. She is a psychology major and active emotional and mental heath advocate. Her art focuses mostly on painting, but she creates in many other mediums as well. She is the oldest daughter of 6 and a proud daughter, big sister, and Black woman.
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HISTORIANSPEAKS: Could you begin by telling our readers a little about yourself and how you became interested in art and specifically, mural painting?
MITCHELL: My name is Jonét, and I am originally from a very tiny town in Guernsey County, near Cambridge Ohio. I grew up with a sort of disconnect with my peers, as I was a tall, overweight woman of color in an area that was primarily white and petite. Art was something I turned to attempt to keep internal peace and composure. I have been into art ever since I could pick up a pencil, and often would ask my mother to create with me so that I could learn more techniques. She was never much of an artist though, and I eventually turned to online “how to – drawing” sources. Most of my life it has been drawing and sketching with charcoal, and paint was never my preferred form of medium until the most recent years, after being forced to create with paint in my high school art classes. I hated paint at first, I did not know how to work with it and was ready to give up, until I finally finished the piece and I had fallen in love with the creation. Now, 7 years later, and a few small paintings here and there since then, I was given the opportunity to create this mural. Before this large piece, I had never created something larger than one 2’ x 4’ and several 18” x 24” pieces.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: Can you tell us about the mural’s location (Gay and High) and how you selected the space where the mural appears?
MITCHELL: The location of the piece was not my choice by any means. I had gotten into contact with someone in an online group chat for Black people at my college, as she posted about the opportunity. After getting through to her connections, I was given the only space left on the Veritas wall on Gay street. Every other spot had been taken because I had not gotten there to claim a different spot, soon enough. Greg, at Veritas, assured me that the spot was mine though, and encouraged me to come use it to create. I say encouraged, because I had different plans for a mural originally, but it would never have looked right in the space I was given. Greg did not know that, but I did. After he and my friends encouraged me to continue to pursue the mural opportunity, I came up with a last-minute sketch. This new sketch meant more to me than the first, and never would have happened had I gotten to choose a different spot.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: Protest art has been a staple of freedom movements in the United States and around the world. What was the inspiration for the mural you painted? Does it have a title? What are some of the messages you hope the public will take away from your work?
MITCHELL: It just started as, I have just always really loved doing flowers, that’s been a big thing in my paintings over the years. But it has turned into a peace statement in all of this. Though the chaos of the movement is promoting some changes, I just put the piece out as a reminder that though the Black woman shows strength with her anger and rallying for her community, her peace and tranquility is also a sign of strength, and one that uniquely promotes growth in the people around her. This piece is just titled No-Name, sort of inspired by the rapper and artist who has been actively fighting for this movement, all over her social media, but this name also is placed on this piece the emphasize the importance of saying the names of the victims of police brutality. The name of the painting is not important, but names like Breonna Taylor and Charleena Lyles are.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: How does your mural center the experiences of Black women in the protest movement. Is there some significance to your choice of two different arrangements of flowers in the floral wreath, which surrounds the subject’s head?
MITCHELL: I am just simply depicting dynamic growth and beauty that comes with change within a person and within their community. I also am working to depict the growth and tranquility that Black women can draw out of the people around her. Black mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, etc. are the backbone of the Black community. We are the creators, motivators, caregivers, leaders, and fighters for our Black brothers and sister. In my eyes, this is not emphasized enough. This piece allows me to tell Black women, and women of color, “I know your worth, I see your spirit, and I appreciate how you bring life to the table” and it works to give them a slight feeling of peace as they march through the streets for their people.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: What inspired you to use two different eye colors (yellow and purple) to match the floral wreaths on the subject’s head?
MITCHELL: Sometimes, as a creator, you just do what is beautiful to you. I do not have a specific reason for the eye colors, other than, those colors bring feelings of joy to me and are pleasing to my eyes. It is, though, a beautiful thing to ask others why they think I chose these colors and why I painted the piece with two different colored eyes, and to hear their interpretations of the concept.
HISTORIANSEPAKS: Your mural is absent the direct references to Black Lives Matters or victims of police brutality. Are you conveying a message about the multifocal nature and diversity of Black experience? Are you making a commentary on the meanings of protest?
MITCHELL: I do not think that my piece lacks reference to Black Lives Matter, it only lacks the hashtag. It is important that we recognize that Black Lives are important beyond the hashtag. It’s important to recognize the beauty that people carry, the essence they possess, and it is important to give these same characteristics to People of Color – especially because, too often, art depicts this angelic and peaceful form of humanity in those of caucasian characters and Black men and women need more representation. As for creating a message conveying the multifocal nature and diversity of the Black experience, that was not part of my original plan with this mural, but that is a very beautiful interpretation in itself.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: What messages do you want your audiences to take away from viewing or reading about your mural and the presentation of your work?
MITCHELL: More than anything, I want my audience to know and understand that #BlackLivesMatter, in every sense. Black women matter, and they do not just matter, because that is not enough. Black women are, again, the backbones, of the black community and without us change would not be possible. So Black women, stay passionate, stay involved, stay motivated, stay tranquil, and stay beautiful. #BlackArtMatters
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Previously published on Historianspeaks.org.
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Photo credit: Historianspeaks