Overview

Millicent Young uses poor materials—horsehair, in particular—to create lyrical abstractions that resemble ancient artifacts or inspired attempts at joining the timeless elements of nature to a contemporary point of view.   -- Jonathan Goodman

What it is to be human in a larger than human world has been the focus of my work for 28 years. Fragility, endurance, loss, awe, and paradox: these are portals to transformation individually and collectively expressed. They are central to the content, form, and context of my work. My practice is informed by spiritual ecology, cultural practices of transformation and healing, and the essentiality of inter being. Art is a liminal space.

Focusing on subjects such as extinction, habitat collapse, and the atrocities of war, my work challenges what divides us: within our own being, human from human, human from other than human, culture from nature. Neither beauty nor brutality exists in isolation. The boundaries that define victim and perpetrator or predator and prey are movable. To witness grace and violence is to face the irreconcilable. The artist and the viewer as witness become permeable; to be changed is to create change.

The materials I use are both substance and symbol. They are ordinary and often provided by my place: deadfall trees, vines, barbed wire, waste lumber from sawmills, architectural steel and window frames from derelict buildings. Other materials include: hair, fur, clay, glass, plaster, lead, ink, raw pigments. They both contain memories and record new memories through touch, erosion, evaporation, fire, and other processes of construction and reduction. The materials record and collapse time.

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 ritual, a physical engagement with the unknown and the record of labor itself becomes content.

For the past five years my practice of making sculpture has grown to include working in installation, in iterations, and in multidisciplinary intermedia projects. In these projects, I integrate sound, poetry, and movement with the sculptural installation to create a layered sensorial experience.

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Biography

 “To be changed is to create change.”

                                                                  

Millicent Young is a full time studio artist focusing on sculpture, installation, and inter-media collaborations involving sculpture, sound, poetry, and movement. Young (b.1958, NYC) attended the Dalton School on scholarship (1962-1976). Her study of the arts and poetry at Dalton and in the museums, streets, and theaters of the city formed 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 studio art and art appreciation from 1986 -2003 at the secondary and college levels and taught hybrid forms of movement practice in a community studio. From 1997- 2017 she worked as a freelance gardener and landscape designer.

Young received Professional Artist Fellowships from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1999 and 2014. Since 1995, her work has received numerous 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). In 2022 she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Art, Design, and Art History, James Madison University.

Young currently resides in the Hudson Valley, NY having relocated from rural piedmont Virginia in 2017. She designed and built her current live/work space on the unceded ancestral land of the Lenape People. Her intimacy with place and all who inhabit it inform Young's practice.

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