“Tracing Absence” with Laura Shill and Adam Milner

Tracing Absence, curated by Marlow Hoffman
with Laura Shill & Adam Milner
July 20 – September 8, 2012
Reception: Friday, July 20, 6-9 pm


Saturday, September 8, 4 pm: Conversation with Elissa Auther & Melinda Barlow $5/$3 members, students.
followed by a Closing Reception & Photo Booth with Laura Shill, 5.30-7 pm. Free
RSVP  for these events with our Events Calendar to the right

Tracing Absence features emerging artists Laura Shill and Adam Milner, two creators and collectors of faceless portraits.  Drawing upon 19th century “hidden mother” tintypes, Shill’s installation re-envisions the historic photographer’s tent as a feminine, bodily space, while Milner’s portraits of anonymous men—prompted by his catalog of strangers and intimate spaces from the internet—explore notions of closeness, gender conformity and identity.

Westword interview with Marlow Hoffman here

Laura Shill – Artist Statement: Some years back, tintype collectors began peeling away the paper frames that vignetted their photographs, and what they discovered was startling.  Images once thought to be photos of lone children perched atop oversized chairs with fabric billowing around them, revealed a haunting presence.

Once the frames were removed, it became apparent that the children were not alone.   They were, in fact, being held by veiled figures, most likely, their mothers.

If not fully covered with fabric, then often these women’s heads have been cropped off by the camera, or their faces scratched away from the photographic surface.  Sometimes they can be seen crouching behind chairs, or they appear only as disembodied hands, reaching into the frames.  They have come to be known as hidden mothers.

The utility of the practice is evident.  Children squirm and exposure times in the 19th Century would have seemed like an eternity for an anxious child sitting before a stranger operating a large camera, himself veiled beneath a black cloth.  Mother would subdue the child for the seconds that it would take to record the child’s image while simultaneously serving as both furniture and backdrop.

However, within the context of photo history, a contradiction is revealed.  The tintype introduced Americans to the vernacular photo.  For the first time in history, nearly everyone could afford to have a photograph of himself.  Americans of all classes flocked to the photo studio to perform their identities for the camera.  This was a democratic act, a declaration of existence and equality.  So then, what do these early images say of the women who are hidden in them?

My practice expands on the notion that the camera creates a stage for us to act out possible selves for the camera.  I re-imagine the historic itinerant photographer’s studio and cast myself as photographer. With my subject’s compliance, we go beneath the veil to simultaneously construct and negate imagined identities, creating an absent presence reminiscent of the hidden mothers.  The process makes me wonder whether we are bound to our inherited identities or if we can shed them, if only momentarily, before the camera.

Adam Milner – Artist Statement: Repetition, ritual, and endurance on a daily scale form the basis of my practice, and are used as a way to blur art with my normal routines and experiences.

My practice relies heavily on documentation, and the viewer of my work often sees artifacts, evidence, or other residue left over from actions taken in my personal life.  Constantly documenting and building archives, I become a sort of anthropologist and collector of my own life and experiences, eventually presenting some of these documents.  The tension of how much to show is very present in my practice, as the intersections and connections between vulnerability, interaction, generosity, narcissism, and isolation are elucidated.

This selection of projects reflects the usual ongoingness that defines my practice, and focuses on a very specific element of my life and practice where I engage in meeting strangers via the internet.  I grew up sneaking into chatrooms as a child, first confessed my love to someone through a video chat conversation, and have an online catalogue of my friends due to social media sites.  It’s no wonder why I am drawn to meeting people and relating to them through social media, and in these projects I present images I have collected and made over the course of some of these meetings.  In these works, the digital and physical collide as I work through ideas of closeness, vulnerability, intimacy, place, gender norms, and identity.

Untitled Art Show interview with Adam Milner

Marlow Hoffman (curator) has held a variety of arts administrative positions in museums, art centers and contemporary art galleries.  She recently returned to her hometown of Denver and works as the Exhibitions & Education Coordinator for the Eames Office.  Hoffman earned her BA in Art History and Italian Language from Washington University in St. Louis and her MFA in Visual Art (Photography) from Boise State University.  She has organized several exhibitions, including Melissa Ann Pinney: Girl Ascending, Suburban/Domestic: The Nature of Love & Family and the Fifth Annual Fine Art of Print.

Works by Adam Milner are included in several other regional exhibitions this summer: Continental Drift at MCA Denver, July 13 – September 23, (opening reception Friday, July 13), Faces, Places and Spaces at the Arvada Center, June 7 – August 26, and Sensitive and Emotional (with Kelcy Chase Folsom) at Vertigo Art Space, Denver, July 19 –  August 10.

Continental Drift brings together the work of seven Colorado artists who explore the idea of place in diverse and thoughtful ways. Artists included are: Christina Battle, Scott Johnson, Jeanne Liotta, Sarah McKenzie, Adam Milner, Yumi Roth, and CPAC Board member Edie Winograde. MCA Denver is located at 1485 Delgany on the corner of 15th Street and Delgany in Denver, CO.  303 298 7554.

In Sensitive and Emotional, Kelcy Chase Folsom and Adam Milner present independent works surrounding ideas of intimacy, relationships, touch, sexuality, and vulnerability that define their work and provide a common ground.