(un)furl, 2014. Grapevine and horsehair, 85 x 82 x 50 in. Photo: Michael Bailey

Human Here and Now: A Conversation with Millicent Young

Millicent Young uses poor materials—horsehair, in particular—to create lyrical abstractions that resemble ancient artifacts or inspired attempts at joining the timeless elements of nature to a contemporary point of view. Educated at Wesleyan University and the University of Virginia, with an MFA from James Madison University, she has always followed her own path. Young lives and works in Kingston, a small city in upstate New York, where she fixed up a house to serve as home and studio. Though she maintains an active exhibition schedule—her recent shows include “Cantos for the Anthropocene” at Les Yeux du Monde in Virginia (2018) and “When There Were Birds (part i)” and “(part ii)” at 11 Jane Street Art Center in Saugerties, New York (2019)—it is fair to see her as working outside the mainstream not only because of where she has been living, but also because her personality, character, and vision tend toward idiosyncracy and privacy—qualities that set her work apart in its originality and unspoken motivation.

Jonathan Goodman: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
Millicent Young: I was born in New York City and lived in the same Upper West Side apartment until I left in 1976. I was shaped by that place just as I was by others—places as intensely rural, wild, and foreign as the city was gritty, human, and familiar. I went to the Dalton School on scholarship for my entire childhood. It was an amazing education—rigorous, self-guided, and questioning. The arts were as important as anything else in the curriculum. Studio art and poetry became my concentration. I was a latchkey kid and, in that way, off the leash—my parents were professors in the social sciences (my father was also a pianist). I rode my bicycle all over Manhattan. The hours after school before I had to be home were magical; I spent them wandering through museums and churches, exploring neighborhoods and Central Park . . .

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