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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Section 4

Denise Milan

Crystal Planes/Soft Hands
Introduction by Patricia Spears Jones

The figures are tiny and struck in mineral. Struck in the hardnesses of an earth that gives and does not forgive. Those tiny figures, symbols, yes, of how we step into the hardness of earth pretending that it can be reshaped with our feet’s movement. Humans are powerful and humans are fools. Denise Milan understands that out of that glee less binary comes beauty and fear and an apprehension of danger. Are we to not see our soft flesh against the harsh planes of crystals–nature’s powerful sculpting leads us to stroke this harshness and declare its beauty. But what are we to make of ourselves, our soft malleable bodies so easily stuck in muck and mire and bad ideas? How are we to remove our desire to reshape the earth we stroll on? How are we to collaborate, cooperate, learn a new way to show power? What these objects do is cast what seems like old myths in new shapes, but Milan wants new myths, new ways to demand that those figures consider their attachment to earth not as imprisonment, but as connection, collaboration, a new kind of conjure. Our soft hands on the crystals edge may bring pain or delight. How we see it says what we want about the future. She says to us it is very difficult to conjure delight.


Artist Statement

“”Quartzoteka,” The Hidden Language of Stones,” is a series of sculptures in quartz and basalt stones that were first presented in Galeria Virgilio in 2011 in São Paulo, Brasil.

This collection synthetizes thirty years of contemplating Earth, listening to it narrating its processes of creation. This led me to interpret the drama of matter that it manifests.

To express it, I searched for a common-ground language and a system of description. A common language that was not English, Spanish or Greek. No, I speak the language of Earth. A language that was written in stones, so common that all beings on Earth can share it.

I was inspired by quartz as a metaphor for human life. I decode it, looking at how it struggles to exist while confronting processes that don’t belong to its nature . I focused on the scientific processes at work in the formation of quartz, a substance known for its ubiquity (70 percent) in Earth’s continental crust. On another level, I decoded as well the hidden language of stones; first, on its atomic structure, and second, as a universal metaphor of life.

This artistic view allows us to go through the layers of matter and transform the stages of stones’ evolution into steps of knowledge. I created “the language of the stones,” the language of Earth, a way to reconnect with our common origins.

My goal is that, from “Quartzoteka” (the library of quartz), people will learn to see and read what is in front of their eyes and they do not see, what most times becomes invisible because we do not allow it to reach other realms, like the dynamics of life on Earth.

I believe this can create a wider consciousness of and engagement with conservation, opening possibilities for future generations to become aware of their role as a meaningful part of the universe.

Denise Milan’s work brings viewers into her own magic universe. From sculpture to poetry, from prints to videoart, urban performance, opera, music, and art installation and public art, all these venues are integrated into an organic and coherent art expression. Milan invites us to enter nature thru the stone, to learn from its formation in the magma from chaos to order, as a parallel with artistic process and life itself. She is an artist internationally known with exhibits and art installations all over the world using the stone to evoke and awaken our ancestral memory.


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