Collection Connection: Joan Mitchell

Collection Connection: Joan Mitchell

Blair Salt, Membership and Visitor Services Manager

What is a work of art in the McNay Collection that you have a connection to?

The first work that pops into my mind is Hudson River Day Line by Joan Mitchell. Any time I’m having a tough day, or my brain feels scattered, I like to visit this painting. It’s very meditative and helps me refocus. You know how the sound of running water is really relaxing to people? I feel like this painting is the visual representation of that sound.

What is something you know about this work of art that others might learn from?

Although I’m familiar with Joan Mitchell and love her work, I don’t actually know much about this specific painting other than what’s on the label. That’s one of the great things about art, and Modern art in particular—you don’t have to know all the facts or the whole back story to admire, appreciate, or experience it! Sometimes all you need to do is look.

Joan Mitchell, Hudson River Day Line, 1955. Oil on canvas. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Museum purchase with funds from the Tobin Foundation.

© The Joan Mitchell Foundation

What are you still curious about?

I’m always curious about how Abstract Expressionists compose a work of art and know when it is finished. A lot of people say abstract art (and Abstract Expressionism in particular) looks so easy, but I think it’s much harder than representational art. How do you come up with a composition, and how do you decide when a work is completed?

On a different note, I’m curious about how other people have experienced this painting. I knew it was about water before I ever learned the title. Something about the colors and texture and even the composition evokes a strong sense of water to me. I’m curious if other people had that experience, or if they experienced something else entirely. How much does the title influence how you look at this painting?

Tell us a bit about you and what you do at the McNay.

I’m the Membership and Visitor Services Manager. I manage our Visitor Services Associates at the front desk and our General, Patron Circle, and Visionary Circle memberships!

What are you most looking forward to when the McNay reopens? Or what are you doing to exercise creativity during isolation?

Although I’ve worked at the McNay for going on 3 years, I only just moved into my current position at the end of February. That means I’ve been working this position longer at home than I have at the Museum! I am most looking forward to getting to know our members face to face and planning member programs.