Sunday, May 11, 2008

Essay by Jack Livingston, 2008

Bird Full of Mud
On the work of Jackie Milad

is a bird full of mud,
I say aloud.
And death looks on with a casual eye
and scratches his anus.” - Anne Sexton

An avid and lucid daydreamer Jackie Milad’s elegant line drawings document her ruminations. Thematically her work continually circles the twin afflictions of life—sex and death. First traced out in the artist's restrained poetic quasi-Egyptian glyph style, her imagery often later blooms into real life psychological investigations and actions. And while her concerns are decidedly adult they feel intentionally filtered through the sensibilities of a precocious pansexual juvenile. The results are depictions of the awkward moment of the REAL. This makes her work simultaneously charming and unsettling.

These are not images of libertines wallowing in hipster transgression. Milad casts her theater from the masses, exotic everyday commoners who come of age playing games like spin the bottle at dim lit parties, then fumble around paired in dark closets where they emerge transformed flush with dreamy innocent desire. Her work takes us back to our generic archaic selves—each awkwardly learning to fly, bodies of clay winging beneath libidinous rushes of warm air. Plain skin, plain tongue, plain fingers probing plain orifices, all collapsing...wriggling and impish, they pass out in faux catatonic states (on request of the artist—you can participate too) overwhelmed by the contradictions of being (becoming?) ancient hairless possum kin ripe with giggles and flatulence—their genitals cooled out, many behind tight clean stylish undergarments. Something here is reminiscent of the angular gender bending beauty and tone of mid-period magpie culture-artist musician David Bowie.

In one of many subtle role reversals employed by Milad, peacocking males—some reminiscent of the protagonists that populate William Burrough's satiric proto-punk homoerotic novel Wild Boys—are portrayed mouths agape caught in mid-whistle. A thread of masculine exhibitionism and desire runs throughout. The artist, recast as admiring anthropologist with a winking gaze, codifies and indexes this ancient form of communication. She is beguiled both by the ubiquitous nature of the form and its numerous and variant practitioners. Milad maintains a collection of field recordings she captured in Mexico when researching the topic and plans to expand the practice in the future. Also, her Honduran born brothers were all active whistlers. Their expressive tonal displays remain a fond memory from her childhood.

Ultimately all art is autobiographical, and Milad's oeuvre is no exception. But Milad avoids any hint of narcissistic cliché. In her work the self and the other converge in a hot house-of-mirrors—blending into a stew of humanity free-falling perfectly disheveled, goofy and calmly torrid amid empty white space cleaved with muted pendulous washes and echoing across mythic borders all day and through the night—a trickster in a house of love.

Jack Livingston
May 2, 2008

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