My collages explore how we evaluate a person’s character based on what we see. A snap judgment on first impression can create a disconnect between people. We use clothing, hairstyle, or posture in an attempt to express who we are. But how much control do we actually have over how we are seen by others?
Early in my design career, I created thousands of layouts for magazines and was attracted to the tactile quality of the printed page. I shifted my work focus to web design, only to revisit print years later as an artist. As I recently browsed through a stack of magazines from the 1960s, I recognized the pervasiveness of ads promoting outdated stereotypes. It was disturbing to see these ads next to articles about civil rights or the rise of women in the workforce. A desire emerged to transform the offending messages, repurposing the images to investigate the ideas and prejudices we hold today. I took to the pages with an X-Acto knife and removed figures from their environments, reducing them down to forms with no context of place. I floated the cutouts between clear acrylic sheets and fastened them to mirrors, allowing an interplay between what’s forward facing and what happens, by chance, to be printed on the back. What is visible or hidden is determined by where the viewer stands, in the way that our perception is influenced by our position.
With this series, I invite the viewer to consider the politics, family life, and standards of beauty of the past—while reflecting on who we are in the present. The mirrors serve as a reminder that we are simultaneously both viewer and object. As these individuals from over a half a century ago gaze back in our direction, how might they evaluate us today?
Born in San Francisco, Shannon Milar is a multidisciplinary artist working in collage, text-based art, and assemblage. Her artwork draws from a deep knowledge of traditional printmaking and extensive experience in digital design. She holds a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Visual Arts from UC Berkeley Extension, a BFA in Graphic Design from The American College for the Applied Arts, and a Professional Qualification from Il Bisonte International Specialization School of Printmaking.
Shannon has participated in artist-in-residence programs at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, Atelier Empriente in Luxembourg, and ExplorArt in Italy. Inspired by how these experiences enriched her art practice, she co-founded Catalyst Art Retreat in Tuscany for artists to focus on their artwork in a shared space with their peers from around the world. Shannon currently designs web software that helps local governments modernize processes and stay better connected with their citizens. She maintains home art studios in Palm Springs and Berkeley, California.