Adia Millett is a mixed-media artist who probes the intersections of identity, history, and interconnectivity with a range of experimental techniques. She employs textiles, sculpture, paintings, wood and glass as mediums to craft works that reveal stories of impermanence. Millett’s works are composed of abstract geometric shapes that evoke movement and transformation. She juxtaposes forms that expand and collapse against glittery backgrounds and hint at landscape and structural elements, such as rooftops, windows, and doors.
Her paintings reflect the dynamic and complex nature of personal identity and its relation to the environment. Millett’s textiles challenge the conventional boundaries of quilt-making by stitching together culturally diverse fabrics. Millett also incorporates historical iconography into her quilts, honoring the past while inviting the viewer to contemplate renewal.
Adia Millett holds a BFA from the University of California, Berkeley and an MFA from the California Institute of Arts. She has shown her work at prominent institutions such as the New Museum and P.S. 1 in New York and is currently based in Oakland, California.
We spoke with Millett about the works she presented the week before last at Future Fair 2023 in New York City, her views on AI art, and her upcoming projects.
Can you tell us about the pieces you were showing at Future Fair this year?
‘Black Moon’ and ‘Gold Moon’ were actually part of an older piece titled ‘Beneath You,’ which was a collection of culturally diverse fabrics. I cut that piece apart (something I often do). Structurally I wanted to take the square grid apart and construct something more organic. The process felt like I was channeling the moon as she gave birth to the embryo forms, ‘Black Moon’ and ‘Gold Moon.’
What inspires you to create?
I’m inspired by transitions, change in everything … nature, perspective of ourselves and the people around us. I’m inspired by our connection to our ancestors we’ve never met and our ability to reinvent truth. I’m inspired by how each unique thing, person, idea connects to every other thing, person or idea.
You share the process of your work extensively in videos on Instagram and on your website. What inspires you to show more of the background that goes into your work?
So much art today is not actually fabricated by the artist themselves. They come up with an idea and have someone else make it. The labor, the craft is where we as artists become conduits to spirit, to intuition, to the beauty that lies in imperfection and happenstance. The process is also showing a parallel to how I think we should live. We should be willing to create who we are and then take ourselves apart and create a more expansive bolder version of ourselves.
What do you think of AI art where a human creates a prompt for the AI to generate an image? Do you think this new medium is authentic and valuable?
Is anything really authentic? Everything derives from something else and AI is a very obvious example of that. I think AI art holds value in that it is a signifier of our time and it will continue to evolve. When I think about the artwork I’m drawn to, it’s work that is created by human hands, work that asks the viewer to use their imagination and emotional intelligence to identify with the content of the piece.
If you could give your past self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t be quiet. Take every rejection as a learning opportunity. If someone is underestimating your value, say no and ask for what you want. Be in your Power.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?
I tried being the other things and I realized being an artist is everything I want to be.
Tell us about your next big project.
I’m currently working on an upcoming exhibition at the Institute for Contemporary Art in San Jose. This show is inspired by an incredible collection of quilts from the Berkeley Art Museum and Film Archive. The show tells a visual story of the parallels between ancient warriors and crafts women. In collaboration with dancers, sound healers, quilters and crafters I will be showing new painting, textiles, sculpture and glass work.