Millicent Young

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Artist’s Statement

Art and Earth define us as human beings. The rupture of connection with either renders us senseless and therefore only brutal. The language of art is sensual. It can stir the heart. It can bypass rational, linear processes. Art can be a transformer. The idea that imagination begets empathy and is awakened by the senses has shaped all that I have attempted as a citizen artist.

Through my work, I am interested in building a vocabulary that will one day tell a new story: a new mythology that restores mystery, beauty, silence, and imagination as central to our co-existence. My visual language favors archetype and allusion. Like dreams, it is a code simultaneously familiar, layered, and elusive. The Koan, a Buddhist teaching tool that takes the form of a paradoxical question, is another model for my work. Insight follows contemplation and the willingness to lose what one knows.

The materials I use are both substance and symbol. As substance they are ordinary, simple, and sometimes found yet within them, there is beauty. As symbols, they do not comfortably stand for one thing. On the scent of something large, they dodge the straight line of equation. The exacting repetitive gestures associated with the crafting of much of my work make the process a meditation; however, the parallel thought flow, or its absence, that accompanies these gestures also infuses the work.

The record of time is evident though silent in my work. Slowly taking form through accretion, thousands of horsehairs are individually threaded through hundreds of holes drilled in vines or tiny dowels. In the White Luminous Room, each of the 1500 ten foot long strands are made by tying and gluing tiny bundles of hair to a long thread. The liquidity of plaster is recorded in its hard celestial surface. The flow of ink is remembered by the contraction of the washi paper in the drying. Every ring of ink on each of the 80 hammered lead pans is a record of the evaporation of that single pool — concentrated, diluted, rinsed, repeated — until the right mark is made.

The Anthropocene is now — the first epoch defined by the impact of one species — ours — on the planet and all the systems that have spawned and supported what we have named “life.” The Cantos are my witness and meditations on now.

Millicent Young was born in New York City in 1958 and attended Dalton School. Shortly after receiving her MFA from James Madison University, she received her first of two Professional Fellowship Awards from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Exhibiting widely, her work has been recognized by curators and directors from institutions including DIA, New Museum, and Whitney Museum. Young’s work received a top award at the 2005 Biennale in Florence, Italy. Her upcoming solo at Les Yeux du Monde in Virginia is Cantos for the Anthropocene. She resides in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 16)

 

Greetings, and welcome to Posit 16! It has been four years since we came out with our first issue, and our new contributors’ page gets to the root of my gratitude — to the extraordinary writers and artists who have entrusted their work to this publication; to the wise and wonderful fellow editors I have the pleasure to work with; and especially to you, our readers. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to scroll through the list — and perhaps revisit some favorites, or check out something you previously missed.

But be sure to save time for the gorgeous work in this new issue, much of which has a certain coiled and quiet potency, enfolding us in its figurative and figured fabrics against the “pale glove / of winter” — “because a legacy of facts / Tramples the empty pages of an early white snow tonight / & because the sky is still falling like a stuntman” (Raymond Farr, “Realism is in Bloom!”). Here you will encounter a number of more or less direct engagements with our alarmingly falling sky, including Peter Leight’s topical (if not literal) “Wall,” and Barbara Henning’s dispatches from our news-menaced daily lives, evocatively dubbed Digigrams. Other works, like those by Charlie D’Eve, Grey Vild, and Alexa Doran, grapple with more personal if no less urgent intersections of justice and identity. Still other pieces apply a calm and sometimes light touch to the grave task of “shaking [their] tags to wake the jangling chorus in [our] wreck” (Jennifer Fossenbell, “Preface to Salivation”).

Herein:

Charlie D’Eve’s frank yet elliptical verses, juggling the harmonies and tensions of confidence and self-protection, advance and retreat, “the times when one part / wants thing / And the other part / wants Thing,” and “it’s all political all;”

the virtuosic profundity of Alexa Doran’s love-songs to the “half party, half sustained injury” that characterizes motherhood at its most passionate, which can be as transfixing and devastating as “a Buick at the back of my knees;”

Raymond Farr’s artfully relaxed couplets to the ordinary miracle of mortality, in which “life is big but not grandiose,” “History is a lot like life & the facts are a lot like / Our own lives in particular” and “death is a sink stacked high with dirty dishes / After we’ve eaten our fill of everything;”

Jennifer Fossenbell’s “Preface to the Obvious” which is anything but, popping with energy and weighted with foreboding, “sparked, in other words . . . Signified” by imaginative leaps and dazzling wordplay that entices us to “lean . . . in closer to hear what [she is] hymning about” and “call[ing] for a ritual, a cerebration!”

Jeff Hardin’s provocative interrogations of existence via query and negotiation with what “Stand[s] in a Center That Is Too Often Tuneless,” deploying his art to “usher us out of the staid and the worn;”

the staccato reportage of Barbara Henning’s Digigrams, a series of “ecliptic telegrams” delivering their condensed amalgam of happenings interior and exterior, optimistic and grim, inflected by the moral failings of our contemporary political moment, with its “truth and lies viral,” “2400 migrants rescued – four children dead;”

the vibrant tension barely contained by these excerpts from Caroline Knapp’s forthcoming chapbooks, The Hunters Enter the Wood and Tanzsprachen, mining the “ditch beside song where // quiet gathers” to reach “the invisible that / shows like stars” and “salvage . . . [from] silence . . . / a fixed and savage song;”

the sly and suggestive counterpoint of Peter Leight’s “Needlework” and “Wall,” their content embodied in their forms, the connective stitches of the first poem’s lineation juxtaposed tellingly with the second’s solid block of prose, reminding us to ask: “is this the only way? Will it always be like this? Or is this an episode that ends when everybody stops watching?”

these cryptic and provocative excerpts from Barbara Tomash’s forthcoming book, Pre–, mining the suggestive instability of “the process of thought rather than the objects of sense experience” via the “automatic relay” of the versatile and ubiquitous prefix, “a temporary modulation . . . // leaping from its horizontal transverse axis / into a remote key;”

the wry humor of J.T. Townley’s “Dead Cat Bounce,” a Q and A of contemporary reality in which “we’re all enmeshed in a web or wired. Also, wireless. It’s how we’re hard-wired” while “a bottoming process is being experienced” in which “switches might start flipping;”

the gorgeously screamed incantations of Grey Vild’s “carnal, carnival sun-drenched, scavenged throat of worship” of idols which “can only be flesh” yet “refuse to be flesh” like “chalk screeching down a bald board” or “a soundless thunder rumbling a dry sky;”

and the quiet lament of Nicolette Wong’s collaborations with photographer David Heg, the counterpoint of their words and images “reverberating through the blinds” with “the rhythm of rust” “in a room of dust singed by erasure.”

My thanks to them all, and to you who read this, for being here.

Susan Lewis

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Welcome to Posit 16’s visual art!

Lou Beach makes the most deliciously wicked and subversive collage pieces I’ve ever seen. His universe jumps into yours with the antics of the creatures, human and sub-, that he creates. Beach is a technical virtuoso. Laboriously constructed, these seamless collages appear effortless. His sly, cock-eyed yet clear-eyed view of the world is both personal and universal. He skewers politicians with fearless precision. Plus they are just so damn beautiful!

Karen Hampton is a visual storyteller. Her profoundly moving mixed-media pieces tell tales of hope and despair, slavery and freedom. Made from stitched fabric, these pieces harken back to the tradition of ‘women’s work,’ and Hampton plays with these resonances to tell stories of urgent immediacy. She utilizes digital printing and hand-sewing to literally and figuratively weave together narratives that are both contemporary and historical, reminding us that we are inextricably tied to our collective histories.

The work of Bryce Honeycutt is intensely tied to her relationship with the natural world. She takes her interactions with the land and delicately filters them into exquisite artifacts. Her marks, whether drawn or stitched, are like poetic maps of these experiences. Her fluent use of a wide range of materials imbues the work with a sense of life. Rather than looking fabricated, the work seems to have ‘grown’ into the forms it takes.

Sarah Stengle and Eva Mantell have collaborated on an intriguing project entitled “Pages from the Frozen Sea” (referring to a quote by Franz Kafka). The photographic project explores the endlessly fascinating, ever-changing nature of ice as a material both solid and ephemeral. Their photographs of embedded objects play with the ways light interacts with the ice and the objects inside it. It takes a minute to gain your footing with this mysterious work. Once you figure out the construct, you are left to wonder, with a measure of awe, at this work’s marriage of materials.

Viewing the sculptures and drawings of Millicent Young, I am drawn into a meditative state. I begin to think of the passing of time – how long must it have taken to tie those knots, or wait for so much ink to evaporate? Her work addresses time in a way that evokes the creation of the earth and the very slow movement of geology. These pieces asks us to consider the possibilities inherent in ‘patience.’ Young’s use of natural materials and a neutral palette speak to her gentle approach to our world and her acceptance of the transitory nature of life itself.

Enjoy!

Melissa Stern