January 10, 2020 @ 10:00 am - March 29, 2020 @ 4:00 pm
Photographs by Kirsty Mitchell
Featuring a selection of large-scale artworks accompanied by videos documenting the artist’s creative process, this exquisite exhibition is among the first to introduce Kirsty Mitchell’s fantastical photographs to American museum audiences.
A trained fashion designer who has worked with international labels such as Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan, Mitchell created elaborate costumes and props and collaborated with hair and make-up artist Elbie Van Eeden to compose and then photograph astonishingly beautiful, fantastical scenes in the lush local landscape of her childhood home in rural England.
But the sublime beauty of Mitchell’s fairy tale world belies a profound heartbreak that compelled her to create it in the first place. As Mitchell explains:
‘Wonderland’ began in the summer of 2009, born of grief for my mother Maureen, who died seven months earlier in November 2008. Back then as I sat in my kitchen sewing the first rough costume, nothing could have prepared me for the five-year journey that lay ahead. What started as a desperate distraction from the pain of reality, led to a dramatic turning point in my career, and consequently, my entire life…
Mitchell’s mother was an English teacher, who spent over 30 years inspiring generations of children with her stories from classic literature, folklore and plays. In April 2008, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor that left her unable to return to her home to England from the small French village where she and her husband had retired. Instead of a funeral filled with her friends, ex-pupils and the community she inspired, the family had to make do with a small gathering, which left Mitchell heartbroken and determined to do something unforgettable that would honor her mother’s memory forever.
What began as a small summer photography project grew into the idea of creating a storybook without words, dedicated to Mitchell’s mother. None of the pictures were a recreation of stories that already existed. Instead, they were a blur of colors and settings inspired by the faded illustrations of Mitchell’s childhood books, mixed with memories, grief, and her newfound spiritual connection to nature.
Two years into her entirely self-funded project (which utilized no stylists, designers, or huge teams of assistants), Mitchell decided to leave her full-time fashion career behind. Moving forward, she would dedicate her life to completing the project and realizing her dream of producing the book.
Wonderland continued for another three years and was completed in November 2014, culminating in 74 photographs. After a number of offers from publishers, in September 2015, Mitchell decided to walk away from every contract and instead launch her own Kickstarter campaign in order to make the most beautiful book possible without any compromises. The campaign went on to become the most successfully crowdfunded photobook ever made, raising over £334,000 in just 28 days and was completely sold out within two months. In light of overwhelming public demand, eight months later, a second edition was released which now continues to sell around the world.
The series eventually garnered international media attention, being recognized by Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Italia, The Royal Photographic Society, BBC News, The Guardian, and The Telegraph to name a few. It has since been exhibited in London, Spain, South Korea, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden, and now has over 400,000 followers on social media.
In addition to this incredible exhibition, the Museum of Art – DeLand is thrilled to offer the superbly produced Wonderland photo book for purchase this holiday season. Please call (386) 734-4371 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about obtaining a copy of this exquisite gift.
Top Image: Kirsty Mitchell, Gammelyn’s Daughter: The Wonderland Series, 2012, Photograph