Artists with local ties team up for Butler Art Center exhibit

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Leah Mitchell made her first trip to Butler County this November to open her art exhibit at the Butler Art Center, but her roots in the county run deep.

The Illinois-native is a fourth-generation artist whose great-grandmother is renowned Butler portrait artist Evelyn Offut Nicholas. Mitchell's grandmother, great aunt and aunt are also artists from the county.

Mitchell's classical realist paintings and drawings are being exhibited at the Butler Art Center until Friday as part of 2 Person Show, which also features Butler artist David Todd's mixed media works.

“The contrast is very interesting,” said Jane Rittelman, Mitchell's great aunt and Associated Artists of Butler County board member.

Todd teaches painting, drawing and sculpture at Butler County Community College and Penn State's Beaver Campus.

“He's much more abstract, more Jackson Pollock-type work,” Rittelman said.

Mitchell, who lives in Aurora, Ill., with her husband and two children, has 42 paintings and drawings in the gallery.

The exhibit represents her complete body of work over the past four years.

Her paintings harken back to the classic representational style of 19th century artists. Mitchell said she's primarily drawn to working with people.

“I really think that the human figure, the human face, has a great opportunity for story-telling and an emotive connection with both myself and the viewer,” Mitchell said.

“When you're looking at a painting of a person, there's a greater connection and a greater empathy. And that's what I'm looking for in my work, to pull out that connection.”

Although her great-grandmother died when she was young, Mitchell learned about her talented ancestor through family stories and seeing her artwork, “which is everywhere in my grandmother's house and my aunt's house,” she said.

“They'd talk about her easel in the kitchen and painting and doing all of these things,” Mitchell said.

“As a small child, I was thinking about this person who was so amazing and was able to do all these things while raising her children.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or

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