Artist and sculptor Charlie Milgrim presents a selection of works that address challenges in our changing world. View more by visiting her website.
I’m a California-based artist working with various media. I starting out my career as a conceptual sculptor. Later, in the spirit of experimentation, I found inspiration in photography and painting.
Creating my sculpture and installations, I make use of scavenged, second-hand objects. I rework and combine them into new forms, often exploiting gravity as an active element.
The primary material of my early work is bowling balls. Over the years I’ve amassed a collection of 600. These range from plain black ones to others in a kaleidoscope of colors and swirling patterns. Bowling balls are important building blocks in my work that are rich with metaphorical possibilities, being stand-ins for heads, breasts, planets, water pollutants, and so on.
For my graduating exhibit at the University Art Museum, UC Berkeley, I unveiled my piece Fearamid. It is a stacked-up pyramid of 35 bowling balls atop a triangular steel table, reaching up over seven feet. I sandblasted the word FEAR into the side of each ball, using smaller type for the bottom layer and larger type for each ascending layer, leading to the biggest FEAR capping off the top.
My piece Two Histories represents my concern for the fate of our planet. I placed two bowling balls on an old cast iron balance scale with a number 2 inscribed in the faceplate. The two balls—one a dull gray, the other a vibrant blue—are held in the balance between two alternate histories of earth. When our history is written, will our planet be dead or alive?
In my installation titled Stealth Reverie I made black paper planes out of roofing tar paper—shadowy stealth fighters—creased and folded into the angular abstractions of the dark geometry of our war machine. They hang on the wall in a straight formation projecting outward, menacing the viewer.
Years ago, I visited the shuttered Bethlehem Steel mill rusting away in eastern Pennsylvania. I was mesmerized by the enormous scale of the blast furnaces and other decrepit structures looming over the landscape. At one time, Bethlehem was one of the world’s leading steel manufacturers, producing steel for some of our nation’s most iconic structures. In the photographs of my Bethlehem series, I sought to capture in the industrial ruins the mill’s former grandeur of an earlier age.
My photographic series, Street Code was born out of my fascination with the spray-painted scribblings that I first observed on the sidewalks of New York City. I later learned they were the cryptic vocabulary of utility workers.
In recent paintings, I focus, if not obsess, on the concentric circle which recurs in nature—tree rings, patterns in shock waves and electromagnetic fields—as well as in man-made products, such as the grooves in cymbals and vinyl records. Also, early religious iconography often depicts an aureola (or nimbus), a radiant disk of light, often a concentric circle, that surrounds and highlights the heads of sacred figures. In my latest paintings Aureolas, I depict shining aureolas that are unbound to any personage, fractured and free-floating, ready to confer their saintliness, democratically, on anyone.
Charlie Milgrim invites you to follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
Want to stay current on cutting edge business articles from Artsy Shark, plus artist features, and an invitation to the next Call for Artists? Click below to sign up for our twice-monthly email. You’ll get all this plus opportunities and special offers that you can’t get anywhere else!