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Corrosive clarity

Mead uses chemical reactions to create art.
Rylan Boggs

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on August 1, 2017 4:50PM

Local artist Mytchell Mead’s reflection in one of his pieces inside his home in John Day.

The Eagle/Rylan Boggs

Local artist Mytchell Mead’s reflection in one of his pieces inside his home in John Day.

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Local artist Mytchell Mead reviews his sketchbook in his workshop in John Day. While Mead isn’t constrained by his sketches, his pieces often start on paper and then evolve.

The Eagle/Rylan Boggs

Local artist Mytchell Mead reviews his sketchbook in his workshop in John Day. While Mead isn’t constrained by his sketches, his pieces often start on paper and then evolve.

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Mytchell Mead applies sealant to a piece of steel to halt a chemical reaction and preserve the coloring of a piece.

The Eagle/Rylan Boggs

Mytchell Mead applies sealant to a piece of steel to halt a chemical reaction and preserve the coloring of a piece.

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Local artist Mytchell Mead uses an air compressor to dry a piece of wet steel he just finished painting with acid.

The Eagle/Rylan Boggs

Local artist Mytchell Mead uses an air compressor to dry a piece of wet steel he just finished painting with acid.

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Mytchell Mead paints acid onto a piece of steel outside his home in John Day. “I follow the piece,” Mead said. “The piece tells me where it wants to go.”

The Eagle/Rylan Boggs

Mytchell Mead paints acid onto a piece of steel outside his home in John Day. “I follow the piece,” Mead said. “The piece tells me where it wants to go.”

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Local artist Mytchell Mead holds a piece of wet steel he just finished painting with acid.

The Eagle/Rylan Boggs

Local artist Mytchell Mead holds a piece of wet steel he just finished painting with acid.

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“Curiosity Tree” by Mytchell Mead

“Curiosity Tree” by Mytchell Mead


From heavy pieces of steel, ancient boards and corrosive acid, Mytchell Mead creates art.

He describes his work as abstract steel and wood wall art, and most of his pieces are designs corroded and etched into steel with a metal frame backed by aged wood. While he often works from a sketchbook, his art isn’t limited by what he initially draws.

“I follow the piece,” Mead said. “The piece tells me where it wants to go.”

When working with steel he uses a variety of chemicals that eliminate or stimulate rust when painted on to metal. Through trial and error, he has learned how to manipulate reactions to produce different colors and effects.

He works with custom brushes, as the acid he uses quickly destroys normal ones, and said factors as small as changing air pressure from a coming storm can affect the reactions.

After painting chemicals onto a sheet of metal, he will quickly rinse, dry and seal the piece with another chemical to preserve the reaction. However, if he decides he doesn’t like the piece, he can rework the metal again and again until he does.

The acids he works with can be volatile, and his clothes have the holes to prove it.

Recently, Mead had been studying with Zen artists working with ink and brush on rice paper.

“It ends up transferring in a very fascinating way to the steel,” Mead said.

For his pieces, he is drawn to wood most people would be afraid to pick up. He looks for “nasty” aged wood full of rusty nails to strip down and use for the backing of the piece.

For each piece, he custom welds a steel frame.

“It’s a complete piece with the frame,” Mead said. “Not just a painting where you fill in your canvas.”

While most of his pieces are sold outside the county, he has sold some locally.

Mead’s old neighbor, Maryann Blem, bought one of his pieces because the blend of golds, browns, rusts and textures also appealed to her.

“Mytchell had an early piece that I was drawn to,” Blem said. “It was called ‘Swell’ and could be interpreted as the swell of a wave, a swell of wheat blowing in the field, or just plain ‘Gee, this is swell!’”

Mead currently sells from galleries in Bend, Sedona, Lake Tahoe and Jackson Hole. Different styles and colors sell better in different galleries. For example, more rustic pieces sell well in Jackson Hole, while buyers in Sedona are drawn a certain palette of colors that don’t sell as well elsewhere.

While many of his pieces are abstract, he also has representational work. Landscapes with a focus on the horizon are some of his favorites. He draws inspiration from the horizon, a place where the material meets the immaterial.

Mead said he creates art from a place of clarity, something that helped his sales stay steady during the Great Recession.

“That’s what being an artist is about, tapping in and tuning out the noise of the world, and what comes through is the clarity of the universe and the moment,” Mead said. “And that’s what people are seeking, they want clarity in this confusing, massive world, and when they find that seat of clarity, that seat of silence in a piece of artwork, they’re like, ‘I’ve got to have that.’”













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