Millicent Young is a full time studio artist focusing on sculpture, installation, and multidisciplinary collaborations. She lives in the foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains in New York’s Hudson Valley on the ancestral unceded land of the Lenape people. Helping the land heal from centuries of over farming, neglect, and from her own construction is the main focus of her work outside the studio. Living simply within a small footprint is also a basis of her studio practice.
Young stepped back from teaching after 17 years in 2003; from family caregiving in 2014 after the death of her parents; and from nearly four decades freelance gardening and design in 2017.
Young was born in New York City in 1958 and attended at Dalton School on scholarship (1962-1976). Her art study at Dalton and in the museums of New York City were foundational. She went on to study at Wesleyan University, University of Virginia (BA), and University of Denver. Shortly after receiving her MFA (1997) from James Madison University, she received her first of two Professional Fellowship Awards from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (1999 and 2014). For over two decades, Young’s work has received awards from curators affiliated with the National Gallery/Smithsonian, Hirshhorn, Dia, New, Guggenheim and Whitney Museums in juried exhibitions. It received a top award at the Biennale in Florence, Italy in 2005. Since 2016 Young has collaborated on several multi disciplinary projects involving film, dance, music and poetry as well as becoming the set designer for a new opera Penelope and the Geese premiering post pandemic. Young’s work was featured on the cover of Sculpture Magazine (March/April 2020).
What it is to be human has been the focus of my work for 25 years. Fragility, endurance, loss, the experience of awe, and the capacity to hold paradox are portals to the interior human pathways that create outer transformation, individual and collective. These are central to the content, formal language, and context of my work.
Specific content – the rape camps of the Bosnia Hercegovina War; the murder of George Floyd; extinction and the collapse of habitat - becomes intimate. Beauty exists alongside horror though they are not the same. We are survivors and perpetrators in spite of wanting to view ourselves as either one or the other. Through the lens of witness - an act of intimate presence that is sensorial and emotional – we become changed. Separate becomes permeable. To be changed is to create change. My work is that lens.
My formal vocabulary is one of juxtapositions in texture, density, scale, use of space, materiality, and the layering of detail within the whole form. In addition to choice of material, culture is referenced through rectilinear forms and writing/counting marks; nature through evaporation, solidification, erosion, and non linearity; the spiritual through the sphere and the qualities of permeability and absence.
Materials are substance and symbol. I use materials derived from manufacturing, discarded from culture, and gathered from nature. These include deadfall trees, lumber, clay, fur, lead, plaster, hair, steel, ink, pigments, paper, vines, and glass. They are ordinary, possessing memory of their own and the capacity to record memory.
I make all my work by hand with simple tools and methodologies developed over years. Some processes are highly repetitive, the form emerging slowly through accretion. Others involve a single irreversible action; thus, from many attempts one is right. All labor is a meditation, a physical encounter with the unknown that becomes remembered in the body of the maker. This intimacy is transmitted through the piece itself to the viewer/witness.
My formative years of family and place were a continuous confluence of opposites, often fraught, that I reframed as ‘paradoxical’ in part by making things. Art was how I learned to be in the world, how I learned to make sense of the world. Much later, my formal language matured in a rural studio at a calculated distance from art world trends. My formal educational path was circuitous; the years spent living improvisorially, working and traveling often along the margins are among the most meaningful.
At the root of all I do is a deep love for the world and the grief that accompanies both. Though distinct these are not separate. We are a species as capable of horrific cruelty as we are of profound empathy. If my work is doing its work, the senses respond, feelings awaken, associations happen, and empathy is engaged. The heart stirs and opens our slow minds to doors unseen before.
"Human Here and Now" Jonathan Goodman, Sculpture Magazine, March/April, 2020
"Millicent Young: Elegies" Jonathan Goodman, WhiteHot Magazine, April 2020
"Millicent Young:Spirituality and Awareness in Contemporary Art" Jonathan Goodman, FronteraD, 2019
"Millicent Young at Cross Contemporary Art" Jonathan Goodman, WhiteHot Magazine, 2019
"Millicent Young: Encountering the Unknown" Scott Gleeson, Peripheral Vision Press 2018
"Millicent Young:Earthly Flights of Imagination" Kingston Arts, 2018
POSIT: a journal of art and literature, #16, 2018
"Remembering Awe" Sarah Sargent 2017
"Under the Radar: Millicent Young" Ann Landi October 2016
"Known/Not Known" exhibition catalog 2014
"Millicent Young Seeks a New Mythology" Sarah Sargent November 2013
"Millicent Young's Transformative Gift" Gerald Ross, 2013
"Millicent Young:Solid into Vapor" Deborah McLeod, 2013