“Compound Vision” currently on view at Mills College Art Museum is an impressive culmination of the two years of intensive study and artistic practice of the 2013 Mills College MFA Studio Arts students Evan Barbour, Claire Colette, Lauren Douglas, Keegan Luttrell, Nadja Miller, Barbara Obata, Meri Page, Simon Pyle, Jenny Sharaf, Kate Short, and Katherine Warner. Although they do work in distinctly unique approaches, mediums, and practice, as noted by Melissa E. Feldman in her introductory essay, “In The Now: Mills College MFA 2013” each artist’s work is deeply cognizant to the world around them in some way or another upon a wide spectrum: from Evan Barbour’s inspection of the smallest organisms on the planet to Meri Page’s exploration of the multitude of galaxies beyond the globe; from Claire Colette’s drawings reflecting the way we look and perceive to Nadja Eulee Miller’s sculptures that look at our social structures and traditions.
“What I’ve found is that photos of my surroundings and experiences ultimately become something else — just a foggy reminder of the past or, depending on how the experience of looking at them later goes, an entirely new memory,” says artist Lauren Douglas. “My aerial and distanced images are an attempt to address how our experiences are always moving away from us.” Douglas photographs the “intimate and galactic” of her everyday life, an image concurrently familiar and esoteric. While Douglas retains a consistent visual vocabulary in her photographs, the works’ difference in size and their juxtaposition in the compositions of her images on the walls of “Compound Vision” illustrate the fractured nature of ‘experience’ as recalled through memory, filtered through lapses of time.
Katherine Warner’s installation created in “Compound Vision,” Written and Illustrated by Maxine Heeding is the implied habitation of a central fictional character named Maxine Heeding. Warner (re)creates Maxine Heeding’s small studio apartment, where “she” has devoted all of her energy to focus on writing her fantasy narrative. Warner created this personage, as well as others in her artistic practice in an effort to acknowledge underrepresented artists as well as explore disparate categories of creative makers who have varying degrees of artistic recognition and perhaps respect. “From the ‘tween who pays homage to her favorite pop stars in small drawings, to the DMV clerk who works on constructing a language every night, these individuals express the emotions and arduous drive that professional artists possess, but they are not recognized in the same way as I might be from my standing as an MFA recipient. Art that is created for self-fulfillment by non-professionals does not follow the same rules because it is not formally critiqued. I want my work to embody that,” says Warner.
Nadja Eulee Miller’s fragile sculptures examine how the construction of rituals, built primarily around tradition and precursors, facilitate human interaction while also influencing one’s expectations of life and the course of life. Says Miller: “The relationship between freedom and structure is an essential theme I am chasing to understand. I find freedom and beauty through structure. It is the framework of trust that facilitates collaboration, creativity and expression…” Creating an elemental line form of a three-layered cake, perhaps referencing inanimate yet iconic forms within weddings, birthdays, and other ceremonial events, her sculptures look fortified but Miller reveals their precarious nature within the hollowed design and the subtle touch of placing one of these jigsaw pieces outside the structure as if it has fallen out.
Creating repetitious, mark-making abstract artworks through the basic medium of pencil on paper, artist Claire Colette creates some astoundingly detailed and intricate large-scale works through remixing and re-presenting an instantaneous, emotionally charged moment slowly and meticulously that examine how what one believes as real and true are in constant fluctuation. “With an interest in consciousness and the subjectivity of experience,” Colette says, “I study moments of psychic focus such as states of intense fear, meditation, and bliss. I am curious about how, while in these states, time appears altered- it can seem to collapse and expand, speed up or stand still.”
Perhaps commenting upon the contemporary world’s proliferation of and easily accessible world satellite views and the internet’s publicly available cross-continental mapping programs and applications, Meri Page’s meticulously crafted geologic forms, and landscapes made with cyanotypes, sand, salt, and pigments question hitherto accepted definitions of authenticity and reality. “I have always been drawn to systems, order, maps, and patterns in nature.,” Page says. “Whether exploring the tension of magnetic energy fields or manipulating the growth pattern of crystalline structures, I am interested in revealing the liminal space where abstraction becomes form.”
Simon Pyle’s photographs, videos and installation, The Cave, The River Lefe, As Above So Below, Screens (Sun) in “Compound Vision” illustrates his continued artistic consideration into the gaps and misrepresentations of digital media’s capability to provide a limitless and superb archive of experience and information, as well as the implications of the proliferation of images and consequent simulacra. Says Pyle: “The promise of digital media and high-resolution screens is to archive and display limitless records of experience. My current approach is to seek out the visual gaps introduced by technologies of representation – the screen, the digital camera, the jpeg file – even as they present a hyper-realistic simulation…there is a dialectic between technologies of representation and the natural world… What is that gap between representation and experience, and how does it shift with technology and culture?”
Compound Vision will be on view at Mills College Art Museum through May 26.