LAUREN MILLS (b. 1957), Dryad, 2011, bronze, 17 x 14 x 16 in., Marshall
(Scottsdale) and White Square Fine Books & Art (Easthampton, MA)
LAUREN MILLS (b. 1957) ) expresses her creativity in many ways, most visibly as a writer and illustrator of children’s books and novels, but also as a sculptor, painter, and draftsman. In all of these forms, she seeks to make something “beautiful, to elicit compassion, or to lift the spirit.” Mills grew up drawing in Connecticut, Oregon, and Minnesota, then earned her B.F.A. in drawing and painting from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Book illustration intrigued her, so she took an M.A. in that specialty at San Jose State University, where she met her husband, the illustrator Dennis Nolan. They have collaborated on several projects, most notably their daughter Genevieve, and now live in western Massachusetts. When the girl was born, Mills was enjoying success painting small, detailed illustrations for fairy tales, but Genevieve’s arrival inspired her to begin sculpting doll heads in oven-baked clay. Her husband suggested she study sculpture at Connecticut’s Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, where she proceeded to spend two years doing so with its founder, Elizabeth Gordon Chandler, and with Don Gale. Alas, Mills had many book contracts to fulﬁll, but she resumed sculpting several years later, again at Lyme with Don Gale and Pablo Eduardo. Inspired by traditional atelier methods, she next studied drawing and painting at New York City’s Grand Central Atelier and California’s Bay Area Classical Art Atelier, as well as egg tempera painting in both Europe and the U.S.
Aesthetically, Mills has long admired 19th-century Romantic art, especially the Pre-Raphaelites and Symbolists for their focus on the mysterious, interconnecting wonders of nature, myth, and legend. The ethereal, foggy visions of the English book illustrator Arthur Rackham (1867–1939) particularly spring to mind while admiring her whimsical, delicately drawn fairies and other ﬁgures. Not surprisingly, the drawings that Mills makes as separate works of art — in graphite or charcoal — are superb, and she has also mastered the sculpting of life-size portrait heads, be they idealized women, wrinkled elderly people, or even President Barack Obama. Returning to her roots in sculpture, she is now ﬁnishing a life-size sleeping infant. In the idyllic composition illustrated here, Mills has depicted a “young naked tree spirit lamenting the passing of her protective home, the oak. I used the interwoven roots of the tree to visually echo her crossed legs, making her one with the tree.... portraying the interconnectedness and oneness of living beings.” Mills is represented by Chemers Gallery (Tustin, CA), which focuses on her two-dimensional artworks; the Charleston and Birmingham (Alabama) locations of Grand Bohemian Gallery; Scottsdale’s Marshall Gallery of Fine Art; and White Square Fine Books & Art (Easthampton, MA).
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