Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Terry Millikan's "Surprised By Joy" Opening at Lizzards

Kinetic Sculpture Park
I've been a fan of Lizzard's Gallery as long as I can remember. For years it claimed our attention on the lake side of Superior Street before moving to mid-block between Lake Avenue and First Avenue West. The gallery features quite a number of high caliber local artists and first rate shows such as the upcoming opening for Terry Millikan's "Surprised By Joy."

For a number of years Millikan has maintained studio in the 1890's Trade and Commerce Building (a.k. Old City Hall) in Superior, but sometimes she prefers to move off the grid to a getaway in the vicinity of Knife River. Perhaps this latter is what triggered the look of her new work, which while still featuring vibrant colors re-shapes them into more distinct forms.

Terry Millikan grew up in Rochester Minnesota in a creative family. An accomplished colorist with a snazzy sense of design, she captures vitality with color and pattern. Magically she creates rhythm and movement. Much like Millikan’s fresh sense of existence, her work is never static, but lively, energetic and engaging. Influences have included living in Oaxaca, Mexico; her time spent at Joshua Tree, California, and life along the northshore in Northern Minnesota. Her connection to nature is evident in her use of rich ochres, warm reds, deep purples, quinacridone golds, and the colors of the earth, sky, and water.

She's been affiliated with Lizzard's for many years and it's nice to see her featured in this upcoming show a week from Thursday.

EN: When did you first become serious about being an artist and how did that come about?

TM: My mother provided me with a creative environment because she was a painter. When I was a kid she showed me things that sparked my interest in art. I recall receiving positive reinforcement for my drawings all through school and determined to go for a BFA at University of Minnesota, which actually prepared me for nothing, though it did strengthen my resolve to continue painting no matter what the circumstances.

EN: How long were you in Mexico and what were your takeaways from that experience?

TM: In the nineties, I moved with a French Algerian painter to Oaxaca, Mexico for the purpose of making art. There, under the influence sun drenched plazas, the lush gardens of the Xochimilco studio, the notable Oaxaca painters, Toledo, Tamayo, and Morales, colorful weavings from Atitlan and wildly inventive Mexican folk art in general. Eventually, I abandoned my use of local color in favor of more vibrant saturated colors, while making the leap from representational subject matter into abstraction. The four years I spent in Oaxaca profoundly changed my artistic direction.

EN: I saw that you had many wonderful art volumes in your studio. Who have been your biggest influences?

Mood Indigo
TM: Oh. Yes. The art books. I’ve always read voraciously about art and artist. Over my long career I’ve deliberately copied paintings by disparate masters from Giotto and Duccio to Van Gogh, Bonnard, Matisse, and Cezanne in order to better grasp their technique; their compositions, and more deeply appreciate their unique vision. Looking through art books has always fed me. For many years I was chiefly inspired by abstract expressionism, especially the more gestural work by Gorky, early visceral Pollacks, and Frankenthaler’s stains on canvas. As I’ve gotten older my interests are gravitated towards the early modernists, which I see as a group emanating, more or less, from the obdurate old curmudgeon Cezanne. I am revisiting the “isms” under the rubric of Modernism and I am drawn to Braque’s cubism. Malevich’s constructivism, Leger’s “Synthesism”. My approach to painting seems to have a taken a more intellectual bent in my 70’s. Perhaps my physical energy for spontaneous, gestural, and explosive painting is on the wane. I arrive at my painterly decisions through cognition and deliberation.

EN: Cool. Your work has always had such a kinetic feel. Where did this energy come from?

TM: It comes from my background. There was a push and pull between one atheistic parent and one staunch fundamentalist Christian parent. Confused and lonely I turned to nature as my solace. I would say I am a pantheist, rejuvinated and inspired by the vitality of growth and change. I try to tap into the essence of living things, which is the source of the energy in my work.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower…. Dylan Thomas

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Thursday September 24 has two openings to keep mark on your calendar. If you're in the Twin Cities, try to catch Mark Zapchenk's Mediterranean Melodies 4:30 - 7:00 p.m. at Luther College. And if you're in the Twin Ports, Terry Millikan's "Surprised By Joy" is opening at Lizzard's Art Gallery & Framing in Downtown Duluth.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Check it out.

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