It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon in the nation’s capital, when we were greeted by Mills Brown in the Katzen Art Center Rotunda. She led us up the stairs to the second floor where her studio awaited a few doors down a long hallway, which belongs to American University’s MFA students.
Raised in South Carolina, her southern charm was evident in her smile and the way she easily and thoughtfully spoke to us. The smell of paint hung in the air, as well as a palpable feeling of creativity. Paint marked the floors, magazines full of possible material for her art were stacked on a bookshelf against the wall, and a vintage chair sat in the corner.
The walls of the studio were painted a simple white, but covered with pieces of her art work. Some from past series, but mostly art for her thesis, which is currently titled The Poetics of Space. A working title that was inspired by a book given to her from a friend.
Mills patiently waited as she let us set up our equipment for her first ever formal interview about her work. When the camera was ready and she was seated in her favorite vintage chair, the words poured out of her mouth naturally and intelligently.
Every so often, a group of people passed by and could be heard through the door talking and laughing, which perfectly captured the lively atmosphere of the building.
“Since grad school I’ve been pretty much, primarily, collage,” she said. Her collages are made out of photographs from magazines, and photos, paintings and drawings she has made herself.
Originally, she focused more on painting and drawing, but found she could achieve the symmetry and intricate detail she loves so much more accurately with collage. “Collage, I found it was a better way to do that because I could get a lot more precision and a lot more specific imagery.”
For her thesis, a major inspiration was still home. However, she said, “I have got a lot more interested in the actual space.”
One of her works is not mounted on a wall, but standing. When the viewer looks down into it they see two children in a world that can be described as a fairytale. Mills used real life greenery and tree bark to help create something that transports the viewer into that very world. She said it’s one of the ones she is most excited about.
To stay inspired, Mills looks at other artist’s work. She said, “I look at artists on Instagram and go to their websites all the time.” She cited Gregory Euclide as one of her favorite artists.
“It’s just a great, inspiring place to do art,” Mills said when asked about the MFA program at American University.
As for the future, Mills hopes to continue pursuing art, whether it be teaching art to kids in elementary schools, being a college professor, or working in a gallery. “I think I’m really going to miss the critical feedback I get here at grad school, so I kind of want to stay in that world,” she said. “So maybe a gallery or a museum will be the place, but I think I’ll be happy with any of those.”
To see more of Mills work go to: www.millsbrown.com
Maria Barranco, Mary Jo Kimble and Audrey Warhurst are all undergraduate students at George Mason University and were part of a Visual Thinking Class taught by Isabel Manalo. Their piece was chosen by their class to be published on this site.