.Oakland Artist Adia Millett Creates Nature-Inspired Work

Napa County’s di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art welcomes the public to “Force of Nature,” the result of Oakland-based artist Adia Millett’s six-month intermittent residency, spent wandering the landscape, collecting materials and sound samples, and exploring the boundaries between language, figure and abstraction.

Through a range of media, from sound installation to painting and textile, Millett’s work in “Force of Nature” follows the concept of human as a natural force, using “a process of taking things apart, removing, replacing, cutting, pasting, sewing and building.” Evoking the power of human creativity, Millett suggests that “humans, like earthquakes, fires or floods, are also forces of nature.”   

Millett is originally from Los Angeles. She received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts and, in 2001, moved to New York City for the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, after which she completed the Studio Museum in Harlem’s residency program. Her 2019 solo exhibition, “Breaking Patterns,” shown at the California African American Museum, was a well-received body of work.

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Her work weaves African American experiences into an ongoing conversation and investigation into identity and collective history. Millett seeks and follows the tenuous yet perpetual interconnectivity between all living beings—the ties that bind and unite.

In her own words:

“Fragmented, constructed and reassembled, I shed light on the multifaceted and complex parallels between the creative process and the nature of personal identity. My paintings feature abstracted, geometric shapes that imply movement—colorful forms expand and collapse freely among glittery backgrounds with hints of landscape and structural objects such as rooftops, windows and doors. While the textiles draw on the domestic and artistic traditions of quilt-making, they are pieced together, combining culturally diverse fabrics.

While my work pays homage to the past through the use of repurposed fabrics and historical iconography, its bright atheistic imagery is informed by the future. The art reminds us of the importance of renewal and rebuilding, not only through the artistic process, but also through the possibility of transformative change.”

Millett has also exhibited at the Craft and Folk Museum in Los Angeles; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Atlanta; the Santa Monica Museum of Art; and the Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans. 

IN THE STUDIO Adia Millett working on one of her pieces. Photo courtesy of the artist.

In her collaboration with di Rosa, a unique communion between artist and institution, Millett tuned in to the land, using sun, water, air and earth, “elements that birthed us and keep us alive” as both mirrors and signposts to produce a body of work exploring our ancestral connection to the rhythms and matter of the natural world. 

Pieces like Solar Serpent, inspired by Millett’s observation of a baby rattlesnake, create a bridge between the natural force of the human and non-human rhythms. Millett’s work can act as a reminder that we are not unique in our movements, patterns and changes.

“The countless creatures I witnessed living on the land, including a baby rattler, became mirrors,” Millett said. “We are able to see ourselves in other living beings. As they navigate the land, so do we. I imagine the young snake using its senses to transition from the challenges of one season to another. Here the triangle-shaped painting, not only integrated the shades of red to symbolize fire, but blue, green, yellow and gold, for the water, air and earth. Like the snake, we move, shed and thrive.” 

Executive director Kate Eilertsen indicated the center was delighted with Millett’s special appreciation for the land surrounding di Rosa. 

“Di Rosa was thrilled to work hand-in-glove with Millett, a nationally-recognized artist whose vivid paintings and textiles have garnered widespread praise, by granting her unprecedented access to our site,” said executive director Kate Eilertsen. “Her reverence for the strange beauty of our landscape—scarred by fire and drought and yet insistently teeming with life—is profoundly inspiring.” 

“Force of Nature” is on view now through Oct. 30, with accompanying programming throughout, including a talk on Saturday, Aug 20, from 2:30-4pm with artist Adia Millett and curatorial associate Twyla Ruby and a free Force of Nature Family program on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 1:30-3:30pm, offering different activity stations inspired by the exhibition. 

Di Rosa will be commemorating its 25th anniversary all year long with a series of special events, ranging from artist talks and films to concerts and theatrical performances. On Dec. 3, the festivities will culminate with a 25th Anniversary Celebration Gala honoring Eleanor Coppola and Lynn Hershman Leeson for their extraordinary lives in the arts. A complete listing of 25th anniversary events can be found on the gallery’s webpage.For more information on this show and di Rosa programming, visit www.dirosa.org. Learn about Millettt’s work at www.adiamillett.com.

Jane Vickhttp://janevick.com
Jane Vick is a journalist, artist and writer who has spent time in Europe, New York and New Mexico. She is currently based in Sonoma County. View her work at janevick.com.

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