The Charles Cowles Gallery is pleased to announce its first exhibition for artist Firth MacMillan. MacMillan creates a large-scale sculptural installation that invokes a physical and emotional experience. This work reflects her concern with society’s state of malaise and fear as we struggle to navigate urban life. Using the colloquial garden as a vehicle for exploring themes relating to physiological and psychological growth, this installation exploits the power of chroma and scale to unearth emotions and offers its audience the pleasure of escape.
MacMillan amasses intimate and monumental parts into pictorial and abstract compositions. Although hung on the wall much like paintings or photographs these ‘images’ surpass the illusion of the two-dimensional and confront the viewer with their unequivocal presence. Contrasts in the elements reverberate, serving to amplify each; the subtle buds assert the boldness of grass, abstracted shapes articulate the specificity of minute detail, and a permanent material captures a moment that is temporal.
MacMillan handles her material, clay, with directness and a physicality that demonstrates a sense of both authority and discovery. She drags a tool through a massive block of clay to render a blade of grass, and then meticulously places this raw, torn form in an ever-evolving composition. Her voluminous objects allude to the floral and the flesh and mimic nature’s ability to create infinite forms from a few basic elements. Experiments with pictorial space and ambiguous vantage points play with the viewer’s perception about what they are looking at; is this a close-up of that or is that a close-up of this?
Firth MacMillan received her BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and her MFA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Hixson-Lied and Johnson fellowships and a Canada Council Grant. Her work has exhibited internationally including the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and San Bao International in China. She lives in New York where she is currently an artist-in-residence at Hunter College.