Adia Millett: NOC Artist Series

15 AUG 2022

Our fourth instalment of our Art Series, we invite American abstract artist Adia Millett (b. 1975) to speak with us. She is acclaimed for her deep exploration of basic configurations, diverse expressive practices, and experimentation with mediums. Trained in the fine arts, art history, and the postmodernist theories of cultural studies, Millett conveys her felt concerns in the discourses of the domestic, the public sphere, gender positions, and spirituality through the interdependent form and content of the abstract compositions of her works.

Her work, “Projection, Not Reflection”, will be on display on our Whampoa Store from July to December 2022.

1. Can you tell us more about “Projection, Not Reflection”, which is now on display at NOC Whampoa?

“Projection, Not Reflection” developed as I was researching about Hong Kong at the end of 2019 for my Asia debut “A Matter of Time” at Galerie du Monde. Because I was unable to be in Hong Kong and experience the culture in person, I had to rely on the news, social media, and what people have told me. Like so many things we believe in life, we often project our own ideas of what or who someone is, not based on pure reality, but on a limited amount of information.

In this painting, one could easily assume that the bottom half of the painting is simply reflecting the top half, but if you look closely, there are many differences. I think seeing a landscape in this piece is an acknowledgement that we can find so much insight to our lives while observing nature. Besides love, nature has been my greatest teacher.

2. Was there a process you followed for making “Projection, Not Reflection”, and how long does it take for you to finish each piece of work?

There are a number of different processes I use to make a painting and each one can take anywhere from 1 week to 3 months. With “Projection, Not Reflection”, I knew I wanted to suggest a mirrored water image. I started with the center horizontal line and moved out from there. Sometimes I’ve selected all the colors before I even start the piece, but with this one, I chose each color as I went along.

3. Would you say that your work hovers between abstraction and figuration of landscapes? Is there an intention for the outcome to be one or the other?

To me they are all abstract. They are a collection of shapes. The idea is to help the viewer to recognize that we project meaning onto any and everything. For example, if you put two basic shapes together, a triangle on top of a square, it becomes a house. It is so simple, but speaks to a universal need for opening our eyes to new ways of seeing the world.

“You Are the Light of the World”, 2022, Stained glass window installation for Bishop O’Dowd High School, California, USA

4. Found materials and fabrics are also core to your repertoire. Can you please tell us why?

Fabric has history, it has the ability to tell stories and can easily be taken apart and turned into something new. Both, quilted textiles and stained glass play a huge part in the way I think about painting. My hope is that one day I will translate more of my paintings and textiles into glass.

5. Your art can be found in museums, on the walls of private collectors, and in public spaces. Where does it make you feel most proud to see your work and why?

Knowing that the art is being viewed by a diverse audience is the most important thing for me. Not everyone goes to museums or galleries. Public spaces provide viewing opportunities for people of different ages, ethnicities, economic classes, etc. I’d like to see more of my art in public parks, airports, train stations… oh and coffee shops:)

“Tent Encampment”, 2021, Meta (Facebook) HQ, California, USA

6. Why is art important to you, and the world?

Not only is art a record of time and our evolving cultures, I believe art has the ability to inspire collective healing and positive change. When we see a piece of art that speaks to us, we feel emotions, joy, wisdom, and humility.

7. What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?

The best piece of advice has been: “Begin everything you do with gratitude.”

8. What is your favorite time of the day to create?

I come up with most of my ideas in the middle of the night. I’ll wake up and see images and ideas of what I’m supposed to work on. But I’m most productive around 10:00 in the morning.

9. Who is your own favorite artist?

It changes, and there are so many. I’ll name one who is dead and one who is alive. I really love Agnes Pelton’s work. She died in 1961. A young artist who is alive, whose work is absolutely incredible is Pamela Phatsimo.

10. What superpower would you have, and why?

Time traveler. Too many reasons to explain.

11. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

A set designer for plays.

12. Lastly, but by no means less important, how do you like your coffee?

I’m drinking an iced latte right now : ) in Napa, where my new show Force of Nature just opened at the di Rosa. Force of Nature is about exploring our ancestral connection to the earth. When I think about coffee, these things come into mind: seeds, plants, nature, and energy. I have an espresso machine at home because otherwise I’d be going to the local cafe everyday! I drink a cup of oat milk latte every morning. I am very particular about its taste. If the coffee is too bitter or tastes burnt, I won’t drink it. One thing I love about coffee is that it grows in so many countries around the world. It’s a diverse bean! Diverse in terms of origins, in terms of forms, it changes from a seed, to powder, to liquid form. It’s versatile! Like my creative process, discovering the space where transitions occur and where stories of impermanence unfold. For me, coffee is also a medicine. It represents energy, and healing. That like so many things, must be respected.

”Grandfather”, 2020, Dutch Wax Textiles, Cotton, Silk, Wool, Thread, 145X132X1.5CM
”Still Standing”, 2022, Acrylic on Wood,152.5X152.5X4CM
“Kind of Blue”, 2021, Acrylic, Latex Paint and Glitter on Wood, 244X244X4CM, 4-Part Work
”SUN (quilted Ancestor)”,2022, Quited Fabric, 101.6X101.6X198.5CM (di Rosa)
”The Myth of Ownership”, 2022, Acrylic on Wood ,152.5X274.5CM (di Rosa)

About Adia Millett

Millett received a BFA from the University of California at Berkeley, and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. In 2001, she moved to New York for the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, followed by a residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem. She lived and worked in New York for a decade, exhibiting in high-profile group shows among them “Freestyle” (Studio Museum in Harlem, 2001), “Living Units” (Triple Candie, 2003), “Black President” (The New Museum, 2003), and “Greater New York” (Museum of Modern Art PS1, 2005), and recently in “Where is Here” (Museum of African Diaspora, 2017), and “Black Refractions” (Studio Museum in Harlem, 2019).

Recent solo exhibitions include “Force of Nature” (di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, United States, 2022); “A Matter of Time” (Galerie du Monde, Hong Kong, 2020); “Breaking Patterns” (California African American Museum, United States, 2019); and “The Privilege to Breathe” (San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, United States, 2019). Millett has taught as an artist in residence at Columbia College in Chicago, University of California Santa Cruz, Cooper Union, and California College of the Arts. She currently lives and works in Oakland, California.

In November 2022, Millett will present her second exhibition in Asia, at Galerie du Monde Hong Kong.


Instagram: @adiamillett