At that time, I became aware that my relationship with my deceased maternal grandmother was very much still alive for me. Through this visceral connection with her, I found tremendous inspiration to reference in my own artmaking. My Nonna's button box, both literally and figuratively, found its way into my art studio and thus was born a passion for using objects as metaphor for human connections over time.
Each summer for the past sixteen years, I spend three months working very closely with about 700 people ranging in age from three to seventy years old as the Director of a camp on Cape Cod. Working with so many people allows me to study the ways in which humans relate to one another. I am particularly interested in children and families - especially when multiple generations are present. I look for genetic clues in people's behavior and I think about the ways these similarities connect people over generations. I study the invisible yet tangible 'stuff' that connects people. In this way, I am both an anthropologist telling a visual story through my art, as well as an artist telling an anthropological story.
LM: What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
MG: If I were being flip, I would say that my own brain is the most important object in my studio! On a more serious note, my 'idea wall' is probably most indispensible. I have a huge wall (20' x 20') covered with foam core. Onto this, I pin all sorts of little 'whispers of ideas' such as: small doodles created when I am playing in my studio; photographs which I have either taken or found; little pieces of rope from the parking lot; lace which friends have mailed to me, etc. I often start my studio time by sitting with a cup of tea while quietly looking at these collected visual references. Sometimes it will take a year or two (or more) for one of these little visual whispers to become a full blown visual idea in the form of a painting, sculpture, or installation. Patience is probably the second most important item in my studio!
LM: How many lists do you currently have going; what are they about?
MG: My lists are so much a part of who I am and how I function in this world that until you asked this question, I did not fully realize the extent to which my lists are unique or even interesting! So, to answer the question - on a regular basis, I make a few different types of lists.
First, I always have three very distinct lists growing and being crossed off in the back of my sketch book: one list is titled, ART; the second list is titled, HOME; the third is titled, BDC (which is my day job.) These lists reference the mundane tracking of my life and help me remain focused on what needs to happen next in order for my life to move forward in a timely manner. Water plants, call electrician, apply for grant, email staff, are the kinds of things found on this list aptly named, my "TO-DO List!"
The second type of list which I write about once a month is called my "10:10 List." Also written in my sketch book, this is a list of 10 things for which I am GRATEFUL and 10 things which I would like to ATTRACT into my life. This is a very useful list because it is not about 'doing' but about 'being.' I find that the less I 'do' and the more I 'be' the more productive and satisfied I actually find myself. (Ironically, this notion is surprisingly oxymoronic, though I find that more often than not, this axiom proves true.)
Lastly, every once in a while when I am feeling exhaustive, I write a list called, "My 100 Passions List." This is a free flowing list of anything that comes to mind that I find at all interesting. I always think that this list will take me a long time to create and I am continually surprised to find this list finished before my cup of tea has cooled. This list is useful for two reasons: 1. this is a really good way to get my ideaphoria flowing; and 2. this list helps me to see exactly what I am interested in and often some of these themes find their way into my work, either literally or metaphorically. All of these lists act as practice or tools for metacognition, which is a skill that I use often in my art making.
LM: What relationships are you currently exploring through your work?
MG: Currently, I am studying the ways in which analogous colors relate to one another much the same way that people change when put in different situations. About four years ago, I began the series called, "Threads of Time." In this series of paintings, I used color as a metaphor for the ways in which humans relate to one another and change given unique situations. This series was inspired by quilt patterns and the tradition of teaching quilt making from one generation to the next. Exploring relative color as a metaphor for how people connect to one other, this series also tracks those human connections as they change over time. The first group of paintings in this series used various analogous purples as the dominant color. I am now shifting to other analogous colors. I know how purple functions as it sits next to other purples and I am learning how greens do the same. Color becomes extremely complicated when you pay close attention.
Another project that I have been working on for about six years is my "Waggle Dance" series that is created from hand sewn cut paper and wax. When completed, the paper is suspended creating a delicate shadow on the wall. This series, which is now growing into a large installation, is based on the silent communication that bees share as a way to inform each other of danger as well as the direction of pollen, etc. I am interested in non-verbal human communication and how we share information without words. Often times, what we do not say is far more important that what we do say. The shadows created on the wall by the cut paper in my Waggle Dance installation are a metaphor for this non verbal communication - what is not there (the shadow) is more important that what is there (the paper).
Lastly, in my Lace Bricolage and Ghost Lace* series of paintings, I am visually playing with multiple relationships - specifically extreme opposites: delicate/strong; smooth/textured; opaque/transparent; detail/distance. These contrasting visual references speak to the history of lace making as well as reference my place within my own family. I am intrigued by the visual metaphor of taking something away and having something left - or simply covering a portion and revealing another - much the same way we relate to those close to us or conversely, how we relate to those people who are no longer with us or with us only in spirit.
*The history of lace weaves an intricate tale across multiple cultures of women teaching women this delicate and highly sought after skill. European royalty paid a high price for exquisite lace to adorn their elaborate clothing. Unique for women in the late 1400 and 1500s in Europe, the early lace makers became extremely wealthy individuals. With this hard earned money, came newfound power and prestige.
LM: What are you currently working on?
MG: Currently, I am continuing to push my "Ghost Lace" and "Lace Bricolage" series beyond 'lovely and sweet' to enter the land of 'powerful and uniquely unsettling.' Additionally, I am exploring the use of color in my "Threads of Time" series, working to push the boundaries of my own color comfort zone. This past year, I began a series of works on paper that I am calling my "Un-Bound" series. In these works, I use thread as a drawing tool in wax on paper. Lastly, I am continuing to work on a large-scale installation of my Waggle Dance series. Whenever scale and repetition enter the art making equation unique challenges arise and significant problem solving techniques must be employed. In this situation, thoughtfulness, patience, and determination become the oil, which greases the art making wheels. Stay tuned!
- Artist Web Site: milisagalazzi.com
- Archive: 2012