January 15, 2023
This week we recognize Millicent YoungMillicent Young, and her ongoing work made with natural materials including sculpture and installations.
"In 1997, I saw the film Calling the Ghosts: A Story About Rape, War and Women, a documentary about building the ultimately successful case before The Hague court to classify rape as a war crime. If I Speak... (above) tackles the complexities of testifying: of re-inhabiting the wound that the telling of one's story of violation and survival requires. As importantly, it asks "If I speak who is listening?" In the work, the testimony of Bosnian rape camp survivors is printed on both sides of the seven suspended ceramic folios. Printed in reverse on the verso, the excerpts are readable in the reflections in the wall mounted mirror alongside marks of violence that the thin clay bears. Simultaneously, the viewer sees their own face reflected in the mirror as they become part of the story unfolding in real time. If I Speak... dismantles separations we make and interrogates the moveable boundaries between witness, survivor, and perpetrator, between observed and observer, between there and here, then and now."
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Sweet Chariot, 2011 (above) is from Young's series titled Vehicles, which explores hybridity of animal, plant, and wheel. At times playful, at times menacing, the forms invite reflection on the wheel, an invention that altered the evolution of human civilization and a symbol that possesses such archetypal power.
When There Were Birds (i), 2019 (above) began as a sculptural installation for an exhibition at 11 Jane Street in Saugerties, New York. Six months later, it developed into a collaborative performance with three musicians, including Iva Bittova, Steve Gorn, and Timothy Hill. The initial installation and sonic explorations were captured with video (click image). The collaboration ultimately wove the trio's improvisational music, Young's choreography, and several poems by Jane Hirshfield and Eileen Myles spoken by the artist with the 13 suspended forms into When There Were Birds (ii), a single live, sold-out performance at Broken Wing Barn also in Saugerties. The natural late afternoon November light that shafted in through the clerestory and skylights was used as the start of the piece. The feeling of the 280-year-old barn and the farm-to-table meal that followed brought an intimacy to the project.
Ceasefire (Gathering the Bones of the Beloved), 2023 (above) does not make a distinction between the slaughter of ecocide and genocide. Nor between historical periods and forms of lamentation. The ceasefire of the title is also a sonnet of the same name by contemporary Irish poet Michael Longley, referring not only to the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland but also to the Trojan War and the sacrifice peace requires."Entering Millicent Young’s site-specific retrospective Alter Altar: 20 Years, 2023 (below) in the two newly refurbished barns is like entering a concise representation of human history. Themes of loss, reverence, extinction, as well as shared humanity and the longing for connection, permeate Young’s detached and poetic presentation. Her use of locally found materials pays homage to the Hudson River valley and the stillness to be found here; indeed, the viewer feels as though she has entered a sanctuary, a place to sit still and let the natural process of appreciation unfold. Attention, like Ariadne’s thread (referenced in one piece), travels from one thoughtful work to the next, leaving rashness behind. One senses that Young has taken the time to hone her technical skills, to tend to her ideas, to let her metaphorical offerings ripen." click image below to continue reading review in Sculpture magazine by Nina MDivani
Millicent Young studied visual art, craft, music, and poetry at The Dalton School and in the museums and streets of New York City, which formed the foundation of her broad art education. Cross-cultural childhood experiences and encounters with profound poverty, the diversity of her family background, and her immersion in rural lifeways and wilderness were formative influences on the artist's social conscience and citizenship. Young went on to study at Wesleyan University, the University of Virginia (BA 1984), the University of Denver, and James Madison University (MFA 1997). Young was an art educator from 1986–2003, teaching studio art and art appreciation at the secondary and college levels and hybrid forms of movement practices in a community dance studio. Since 1993, she has worked as a freelance master gardener and landscape designer, focusing on permaculture and healing. Young has received two Professional Artist Fellowships from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; four grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (NYC); and two individual artist grants from the New York State Council on the Arts/Arts Mid Hudson. Her work is included in the National Museum of Women in the Arts collection. Young's work was featured on the cover of Sculpture Magazine (March/April 2020). In 2022, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Art, Design, and Art History at James Madison University. Young currently resides in the Hudson Valley, New York, having relocated from rural Piedmont, Virginia, in 2017. She designed and built her current live/work space in the foothills of the Shawangunks. Her intimacy with place and all who inhabit it shapes Young's practices daily. www.millicentyoung.com
Featured images (top to bottom): ©Millicent Young, If I Speak…, 1998, ceramic, steel, mirror, testimony from a survivor of the rape camps excerpted from War Crimes in Bosnia-Hercegovina vol.II. 82 x 91 x 10 inches; Vehicles, 2009-2012, Sweet Chariot, 2011, hickory, grapevine, adobe, twine, hair, 39 x 106 x 42inches; When There Were Birds (i), 2019, grapevine, hair; Ceasefire (Gathering the Bones of the Beloved), 2023, cedar, cherry, oak, steel shackles, barbed wire; 45 x 25 x 53 inches; ALTER ALTAR: 20 Years (2023); Portrait of the artist in her studio. All images courtesy of the artist.