Artist Statement

I make paintings and works on paper that visualize observations about current and historic events that impact our time. I use the conceptual space of maps, combined with paint, collage, drawing, and printmaking to explore data in highly abstracted representations that vary in size from the diminutive dimensions of an atlas page to paintings over twelve feet wide. This process transforms the often dry and analytical language of cartography and data visualization into charged representations of the world and data about humanity that, rather than being experienced by objectively reading them, are more likely to evoke a palpable, visceral response.

My process begins with a question, idea, or response to a map, followed by looking for answers, learning about the topic, and investigating ways to represent it visually. One series began with the deep sorrow felt when thinking about how much war and conflict there is in the world, followed by realizing I had no idea how much there actually was. I began to research layer upon layer of information on this grim subject, with each discovery leading me to more data. I took copious notes and began exploring ways to visualize this complex subject in notebooks and atlases, and eventually created large Current Wars and Conflicts paintings.

I started incorporating maps into my work in the early 1990s while thinking about the quincentennial of what is euphemistically referred to as “The First Encounter”. Since then, I have focused on wars and their consequences, on borders, boundaries, and their effects on populations. For example, recent ongoing series investigate colonialism (Contest). imperialism (US Future States Atlas), land claims (Magallanica, a series on Antarctica), wars and displacement (Current Wars and Conflicts), colonialism and indigenous cultures (What’s in a Name? and Amazon Region), and inequities of fulfilling the American dream (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness).

My parents, Virginia Ward Mills (1930-2010) and E. Andrew Mills (1928-2007), were both artists in Upstate New York and Outer Cape Cod. Click here for more about their life and work.