Art Review

Susanne Mitchell documents African culture at Edge

Denver artist Susanne Mitchell has taken over both of the front spaces at Edge Gallery for her solo, Crossing Into, a visual exploration of the cross-cultural currents represented by her marriage to an African immigrant. That union has since dissolved, but while they were together, the couple had a child, and it is for his benefit that Mitchell periodically travels to Malawi, her son's ancestral homeland.

The show mostly comprises wall hangings created with fabric that Mitchell gathered during her trips there. These cloths are printed with patterns and are used for clothing and other things. The pieces Mitchell collected were tattered and were regarded by their original owners as rags. Known best as a printmaker, Mitchell has printed onto the pre-printed fabrics images that refer to Malawi's colonial past and include representations of Queen Victoria and English-style furniture. She has also incorporated prints of photos of the villagers she met in her ex-husband's home town.

Since the work in this series is experimental and quite different from Mitchell's previous efforts, not everything is successful, but the clear tour de force is the title piece (pictured). On a found lace tablecloth pinned to the wall, Mitchell has hung a fancy oval-shaped gilt frame in which a brown print of a photo of village children has been placed. The children are staring intently at the lens — and, by implication, at Mitchell, who took the photo.

In the back space at Edge is a print sale, with works by renowned Boulder-based printmaker Clinton Cline and his friends. Cline has taught printmaking at the University of Colorado for more than forty years. The prints that line the walls and are displayed in stacks on tables are amazingly inexpensive, some selling for as little as $50 — a pittance when you consider Cline's importance to the state's art history and the undeniably high quality of his work.

The Mitchell show and the Cline sale run through December 23 at Edge Gallery (3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173,

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia