Art: New KMAC director brings a fresh outlook

‘Into the Mix’ features the work of Caribbean artists

He’s come to Louisville by way of Sweden. Aldy Milliken, an American with international sensibilities (he’s also lived in Budapest, Hungary and Indonesia), is the new executive director of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. An engaging man with 20 years of art and educational experience, including running a self-titled gallery, Milliken was selected to give KMAC a new outlook.

And a new outlook he has. Milliken’s artistic philosophy combines creativity, contemporary art, and art history to form his view of crafts. He’s not a traditionalist but prefers to see craft in all of the art that surrounds us.

“Artists mention materiality … as never before,” he says. “Ceramics, woodcarving, glass blowing, drawing, textiles and other craft-oriented practices have been added to the language of a new generation of contemporary artists. Kentucky is an interesting place for curators to engage in an art-and-craft discussion, because traditional craft workers are still held in high esteem in the region, but have yet to formulate themselves in an international context. KMAC is the perfect size museum to develop a collaborative atmosphere with a global perspective. Regarding exhibitions, I must also find a way to weave the local artists into the larger perspective I want … to explore.”

“Into the Mix” is the first exhibition since Milliken’s arrival in January. The show was already on the books, so while he didn’t decide on the subject, he did choose most of the artists and revamped it to reflect his worldview. (His first “soup-to-nuts” exhibition, “Storytelling as Craft,” will open in August.)

“Into the Mix” features works by nine Caribbean artists relating to materiality and cultural stereotypes. The media is as varied as the subject matter, from the beads and tire assemblage by Bahamian artist Blue Curry to the tapestry by Ebony Patterson, originally from Jamaica and now living in Lexington.

“In many societies, craft and hand-worked items help establish a culture of self-worth in the minds of the local population,” says Milliken. “The creation of these objects is influenced by the economic opportunity presented through tourism, yet souvenirs represent the visitor’s interests and are taken out of context. What is cultural authenticity, and who decides what is truly a significant representation of a culture?”

One of Milliken’s goals is to expand the relationship between educational and curatorial, to produce what he calls “a learning museum.” KMAC’s small educational department rose to the challenge for this show, producing an “Into the Mix” children’s exhibition guide, K-8 teacher resource packet and scavenger hunt.

The new artist-in-residence is Sheena Rose from Barbados. She’s only been a professional artist since 2008, yet has found her voice by incorporating her drawings and paintings with animation as a way of understanding the people around her. A combination of voyeur and sociologist, she feeds off the energy of the streets and is as animated as the art she creates.

Rose is currently working on a Louisville-centric piece that should be ready by the April 6 First Friday Trolley Hop.

‘Into the Mix’
Through April 14
Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft?
715 W. Main St. • 589-0102
kentuckyarts.org