Mist of the Earth Exhibit

Tuesday, October 18
Exhibition viewing 6:15pm, Suite 391, Regents Hall
Panel Discussion 7:00pm, Fisher Colloquium,
McDonough School of Business School

To celebrate the opening of its new home on the Georgetown campus, the Georgetown Environment Initiative (GEI) is collaborating with the Walsh School of Foreign Service and its Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) program to bring Brazilian artist Denise Milan, her vision, and her exhibition Mist of the Earth to our University community. Documenting the Brazilian Atlantic Forest and its indigenous people, the exhibition urges as well as enables its audience to envision and reflect upon the environmental and cultural challenges of development and sustainability.

As a catalyst for cross-disciplinary exploration of environmental change, the Mist of the Earth exhibition will open with the STIA 2016 Loewy Lecture, a convening of experts from across disciplines who will bring their perspectives to and engage the audience in the exhibition themes. After an exhibition viewing and opening remarks by the artist, the evening will flow into a round-table dialogue with the audience and the panelists who will include:

Anna Celenza, Georgetown's Thomas E. Caestecker Professor of Music (moderator); Jerome Friedman, MIT Institute Professor Emeritus and 1990 Nobel Laureate in Physics for the discovery of quarks; Manuela Mena, Art Historian, Senior Curator of 18th-Century Painting and Goya at the Museo Nacional del Prado; Naomi Moniz, Georgetown Associate Professor of Portuguese Emerita; and Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO, Conservation International


Denise Milan, Hinckley Institute of Politics

I am so pleased to have Denise Milan return for a closer look at her work. For those who did not have the opportunity to see her when she was here earlier this year and see her exhibition, Mist of the Earth at the Marriot Library, then you are in for a treat today. I want to thank the Hinckley Forum for Politics for hosting us and to point out that this talk is part of my course on Latin American Avant Garde art. As the semester draws to a close, I cannot think of someone more appropriate to conclude with. I will leave it to my students to point out how Denise`s artistic practice carries on the tradition of the avant garde, and in particular its turn to the every day for inspiration and its use of public space.

I will keep my introduction short because I want to make sure we leave time for our guests, especially because today we also have the pleasure of hosting Naomi Muniz, a professor emeritus at Georgetown University and a scholar who has written about Denise`s work and who will follow the artist. I also want to make sure we have time for a Q&A and what promises to be a lively discussion.

Denise was trained in dance and avant garde theater at the University of São Paulo, but she has since dedicated her life and practice to the public stage where nature performs. She has been an active artist since 1981 when she had her first solo show at a gallery in São Paulo. Since then she has kept busy and exhibited widely both in Brazil and internationally, in places like New York, London, Italy, to name only a few.

Through her keen perception of our natural environment, she is able to isolate and distill those moments that induce her public to see the beauty in nature`s performance, and the titles of her work reflect this, consder Garden of Light, Solid Air, The Opera os Stones and Mist of the Earth, the exhibit that was showcased here at the Marriott. While her message appears simple, it does in fact offer a proposal to the complexities of the environmental crisis that confronts us globally. The message she proposes is that in order to move forward we must look back, i fact, far back, into the lessons of prehistory. It is a lesson about survival that can be found in the most elementar of natural substances, ROCKS!

Now here in Salt Lake we know something about how art and rocks come together since our soon to be official state art work is spiral jetty, a 15 foot wide coil created by Robert Smithson in 1970.

But Milan`s oevre with rocks is intimately tied to geology. Art and Science have a longstanding collaborative relationship, but they are rarely examined in close proximity. Denise`s work insists that we consider the importance of the sciences in formulating artistic relationships and she puts into images what science puts into equations. She is well versed in geology, and has made it an integral part of her creative process. For example, she knows the nuances and properties of quartz, a material present in 70% of the earth, and makes us look beyond its decorative qualities to explore what kinds of lessons it gives us about life. In fact she demonstrates for us that in, rocks and stones, what she calls basic earth structures which she has spent a few decades observing, we can find models for survival. Her optimism about the lessons we can learn is contagious.

In the past decade, the arena of the global and the processes of globalization have been part of many academic and artistic discussions, even as divisions between nations, or even class and race seem continually to create fractures in society. In the global process that we come face to with in Denise`s work, we are motivated to ask, WHAT is it that brings us together and surpasses national, ethnic and other divisive boundaries? How do we cultivate a shared interest and awareness in our environment?

So much o four information about the environment is about its destruction, its rapid decline, and our escalating abuse of it. Milan asks us to look to nature and how it models survival rather than devastation. She sees herself as an interpreter of nature and seeks to order the confusion of natural wonders. Her work does not stop there. She is also committed to arts education and has worked with kids in communities in São Paulo in after school programs to relay her message. In this she also carries on the legacies of the avant garde, to engage an art public outside of institucional art spaces. Her optimism, commitment and humility when faced with nature`s complexity is rare in a society where negativity trumps generosity. For that I want to thank her and to express our gratitude for sharing it here today. Please help me welcome Denise Milan.