Millicent Young is a full time studio artist focusing on sculpture, installation, and inter-media collaborations involving sculpture, sound, poetry, and movement. Young relocated to the Hudson Valley, NY from Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 where she designed and built current her live/work space on the unceded ancestral land of the Lenape People. A regenerative approach to healing the land and her intimacy with place informs Young’s studio practice and citizenship.
Young (b.1958, NYC) attended the Dalton School on scholarship (1962-1976). Her study of the arts and poetry and the museums, streets, and theaters of the city became the foundation of her art education. Travel, family friendships, and the early influences of Young’s anthropologist mother were formative to her sense of citizenship. Young went on to study at Wesleyan University, University of Virginia (BA 1984), University of Denver, and James Madison University (MFA 1997). Young taught art from 1986 -2003 at the secondary and college levels and movement at the community level. She worked as a freelance gardener and landscape designer 1997 - 2017.
Two years after receiving her MFA, Young received the first of her two Professional Artist Fellowships from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (1999; 2014). Since 1995, her 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 (2005). 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).
What it is to be human in a larger than human world has been the focus of my work for 27 years. Fragility, endurance, loss, the capacity for awe and to hold paradox: these are portals to the interior pathways that create transformation expressed individually and collectively. These are central to the content, form, and context of my work as a sculptor and inter-media collaborator. My current practice is deeply informed by eco philosophy and the essentiality of inter being.
Specific subjects – extinction, habitat collapse, the atrocities of war – become content intimately transposed so as to collapse what divides us, human from human, human from other than human, and within our own being. Beauty exists alongside brutality; astonishment alongside labor. Personal and political are inseparable. The boundaries between victim and perpetrator or predator and prey are movable. To be witness to acts of violence or its aftermath and to moments of grace and numinosity is to become fully present to the irreconcilable. This is my task as artist and viewer. To enter into this invitation is to enter a condition of permeability where to be changed is to create change.
I use materials as substance and symbol. They are ordinary and usually provided by my place. Often they are cast-offs of nature or industry: deadfall trees, themselves a story of place and time; steel window frames from the local demolished Lace Factory. Other materials include: grapevines, scrap lumber, clay, glass, fur, hair, plaster, lead, barbed wire, ink, dry pigments. They give themselves to transformation through processes of wind, erosion, evaporation, fire, touch, and mark making.
I make all my pieces by hand with simple tools and methods I have developed over years. Some processes are highly repetitive, the form emerging through accretion. Others involve a single irreversible action; from many attempts only one is right. All labor is a powerful meditation, a physical encounter with the unknown. It becomes encoded in my body as maker and experienced as intimacy by my viewer.
I have never identified with any movement in contemporary art history. My formal language matured at a chosen distance from trends, working from a rural studio in Virginia but hardly in a void, traveling and teaching. By integrating sculpture, dance, sound and poetry, I was able to breach the limitations of their individual expressive capacities. Through the vulnerability of improvisational collaboration, I found a heightened experience of communication.
In Art – the making of it and the experiencing of it – I learned how to make sense of the world and that metaphor is an agent of change. My formative years of family and place were a continuous confluence of opposites, often fraught, that I reframed as paradoxical and thus, potent. My circuitous educational path served as a series of residencies, my inquiries into the capacities of expressive language. The years I spent living improvisorially working and traveling often along the margins are among the most meaningful of my education.
At the root of all I do is a deep love for the world as it is and the grief that accompanies both. We are a species as capable of horrific cruelty as we are of profound empathy. The intent of my work is to touch the senses and stir the heart while addressing our living history of Now. It is then that minds open to imagine pathways toward healing and regeneration.
"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