ADIA MILLETT interviewed in Interlocutor

9 Apr

INTERLOCUTOR

Apr 8

ADIA MILLETT

Visual Artists

“The Moon is Always   Full” exhibition view at Morton Fine Art in Washington DC - photo courtesy of Jarrett Hendrix
“The Moon is AlwaysFull” exhibition view at Morton Fine Art in Washington DC – photo courtesy of Jarrett Hendrix

Adia Millett, originally from Los Angeles, California received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. In 2001, she moved to New York City for the prestigious Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, followed by the Studio Museum in Harlem residency program. Millett has been a standout in numerous group exhibitions including the well-received “Greater New York” show at PS1 in Long Island City, New York and “Freestyle” at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at the Barbican Gallery in London; The Craft and Folk Museum in LA; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Atlanta; The Santa Monica Museum of Art; and The Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans. Millett has taught as an artist in residence at Columbia College in Chicago, UC Santa Cruz, Cooper Union in NY, and California College of the Arts. Millett currently lives and works in Oakland.

In this interview, she discusses the recent work currently on display for her solo show “The Moon is Always Full” up through April 22 at Morton Fine Art in Washington DC.

Interview by Isabel Hou

You currently have an exhibit at Morton Fine Art in Washington D.C. titled “The Moon is Always Full.” In particular, the titles of your textile works, Gold Moon and Black Moon, caught my eye. What is their significance relative to the exhibition?

Gold Moon and Black Moon were actually part of an older piece titled Beneath You. I cut that piece apart (something I often do). Structurally I wanted to take the square grid apart and construct something more organic. The process felt like I was channeling the moon as she gave birth to the embryo forms, Black Moon and Gold Moon.

Gold Moon , 2019 - 30.5 x 30.5 in - Cotton, upholstery fabric and silk
Gold Moon, 2019 – 30.5 x 30.5 in – Cotton, upholstery fabric and silk
Black Moon , 2019 - 30.5 x 30.5 in - Cotton, upholstery fabric and silk
Black Moon, 2019 – 30.5 x 30.5 in – Cotton, upholstery fabric and silk

The pieces in your exhibition are constructed with fragments “to fashion a meaning greater than its individual elements.” (Morton Fine Art, 2021) Quilt-making may be considered an act of fragmentation and construction. Was this textile medium the source of your interest in identity and collective history? Or rather, did your interest lead you to the medium?

I think our cultural histories are imbued with a foundation of craft, of distilling who we are in handmade creative objects. Here, quilting pays homage to that process while redefining how it’s used.  Identity, psychology, spirituality, nature are all reflected in my choices to challenge our visual understanding of who we are.

Your past exhibitions have been named “Infinite Edges” (Traywick Contemporary, 2019), “Breaking Patterns” (California African American Museum, 2019), and “A Matter of Time” (Galerie du Monde, 2020-21). Where does “The Moon is Always Full” fit in with them?

I write poetry and all my titles have or will eventually become the title of something I write. What all of these titles attempt to do is be broad enough that they can refer to a collective societal expansion, while simultaneously asking the viewer to examine how the title can apply to their own personal life.

There is this bright, geometric overlap and underlap in both Portal and Reflection. How do these pieces and their layered compositions contribute to the theme of your exhibition?

It’s a recognition of literal and metaphorical perspectives. We perceive shapes and colors as an indication of 3-dimensional space. The work is examining our desire to make meaning out of abstraction.

Portal,  2018 - 24 x 24 in - Acrylic on wood
Portal, 2018 – 24 x 24 in – Acrylic on wood
Reflection , 2020 - 48 x 60 in - Acrylic on wood
Reflection, 2020 – 48 x 60 in – Acrylic on wood

In the past, you have engaged with concepts of perception, perspective, and time, and have stated that your work “pays homage to the past,” but is “informed by the future.” (Morton Fine Art, 2021). Is this a concept that you find present in your own life? Or is it a commentary on something larger?

I think every artist’s work is a reflection of their lives, so our cultural pasts, our relationship to beauty, resilience, death, community, and so many other topics find their way into my work and hopefully into the minds of anyone interested in art.

You have attributed African American experiences as a source of inspiration. Can you expound on what aspects of your work pay homage to these experiences? And what do you hope to convey through these manifestations?

I am an African American. My work is inspired by my lived experience. What I hope to convey is the value of self-reflection.

Gold Roof,  2019 - 40 x 30 in - Acrylic, gold leaf and plastic on wood panel
Gold Roof, 2019 – 40 x 30 in – Acrylic, gold leaf and plastic on wood panel

What really stands out to me within your work is the dichotomy between geometry and fluidity. The bold colors and patterns in your pieces seem so free and fluid. Yet, much of your work includes neat, geometric lines and shapes. What do you hope to convey between this contrast? Or rather, do you view these elements as complementary?

It’s really great to hear that you see the patterns and colors as free and fluid. Part of my process when I am making anything is to embrace contradictions. The places where we believe things or people don’t belong together are where beauty resides.

XY Shield,  2019 - 42 x 42 in - Indigo dyed cotton, upholstery fabric, cotton and silk
XY Shield, 2019 – 42 x 42 in – Indigo dyed cotton, upholstery fabric, cotton and silk

On your site, you write that your work aims to remind viewers of the “importance of renewal and rebuilding […] through the possibility of transformative change.” Has the ever-evolving nature of identity and the human experience always been so important to you?

I don’t know. I do know that many creative people like myself grow up feeling like aliens, different than the people around them. I think that experience as a child has the ability to spark the drive to fight convention and redefine the identities that have been projected on us.

Who, or what inspires you?

Everything inspires me. Humans, nature, science fiction, music, grief, love, history, emotions, color, moments when we take risks.

OWF,  2019 - 37 x 74 in - Found fabric, wool, cotton and batton
OWF, 2019 – 37 x 74 in – Found fabric, wool, cotton and batton

As we live through a pandemic, have you thought about how the art world will change in the years to come? Do you foresee your work changing in response to this crisis?

Yes, the art world is definitely changing. Amongst other things, the pandemic has certainly woken us up. It has impacted my work, but more importantly, it has raised my desire to support other artists, to collaborate, to bring awareness to social justice issues around racism, patriarchy, prison incarceration, and the growing homeless population. I am more driven than ever to make work that is built around empathy and respect for each other and our collective consciousness. 

“The Moon is Always Full” is on display through April 22 at Morton Fine Art in Washington DC.

Click HERE to read the Interlocutor article in full.

Available Artwork by ADIA MILLETT

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