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One more month to see exhibit at USM Gorham gallery

GORHAM, ME — Embodying Softness / Excavating Delight sees artists Jackie Milad and Libby Paloma paired for the joy they share in their processes. Works in this show range from mixed media wall hangings to free-standing soft sculptures. The artists consider the intersection of the lives of objects and language, and the point at which truths otherwise indiscernible manifest.

Milad’s exhibition works stem from her interest in recently discovered artifacts of the Lenca people on Tiger Island in Honduras, where the artist traces her maternal lineage. The artwork examines how self-conception intertwines with objects’ journeys. Milad’s process mimics archaeology through excavation and even recalls resurrection as she tears down and reconfigures older pieces into new works. Alongside iconography, she often adds song lyrics from Bad Bunny, among other artists. In doing so, Milad interrupts a linear trajectory of history to expose the intersecting nodes, networks, and cultures that comprise selves and objects.

Drawing on her background as a Speech-Language Pathologist, artist Libby Paloma locates her artistic investigation in idiomatic language and its capacity to convey more than straightforward speech. In No Picnic, Paloma makes figures of speech visible, conjuring cans of worms, spilled milk, pickles, and more in her installation’s soft sculptures. These idioms are a metaphor for living with chronic illness and the inarticulability of affect and experience. A feeling of bittersweetness saturates Paloma’s installation — a by-product as we build a new and, for Paloma, decidedly softer reality.

Paloma and Milad utilize their respective media to arrive at truths only conveyable through a layering of the visual and linguistic. In doing so, they ask what parts comprise our narratives around selfhood and heritage. How can we dismantle the false construct of objective linearity and embrace a more distributed, situated conception of our stories? If this is possible, then so is a softer and more accurate world for ourselves and all whose experiences do not hew to an orderly path.

The show will run until Saturday, December 9, 2023. The Gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday from 11 am – 4:30 pm and by appointment. A suggested donation of $2 is requested for exhibition visits.

Jackie Milad (she/her) is a Baltimore City-based artist whose mixed-media abstract paintings and collages address the history and complexities of dispersed cultural heritage and multi-ethnic identity. She has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally. Select exhibitions include The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, MD), The Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD), Academy Art Museum (Easton, MD), Weatherspoon Art Museum (Charlotte, NC), The Mint Museum (Charlotte, NC), Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA), and the Harvey B. Gantt Center (Charlotte, NC).

Milad is a multi-year recipient of the Individual Artist Grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. In 2019, she was named a Janet & Walter Sondheim Prize Finalist and a Robert W. Deutsch Foundation Ruby Grantee. In 2022, Jackie received the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City Travel Prize to conduct in-depth research on the Egyptian antiquities held at the British Museum and Petrie Museums in London. Her work is included in several public collections, including The Baltimore Museum of Art, Academy Art Museum, Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Library, Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, Pizzuti Collection and Meta (Facebook) Open Art Program. Milad received her BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, and her MFA from Towson University. She is currently represented by SOCO Gallery in Charlotte, NC.

Libby Paloma (she/they) is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in New York, NY. Paloma’s work is informed by aspects of her/their Mexican-American, queer, disabled identity, using soft sculpture, installation, and performance to create gentle environments and often humorous encounters. Inspired by everyday objects and natural surroundings, Paloma’s installations and performances are an invitation to rest in a fluffy, puffy, tender world.

Paloma has been an artist in residence at Space, Portland, ME; The Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT; and The Wassaic Project, Wassaic, NY. Recently, Paloma was featured as a panelist on the roundtable, What is an Image? at The International Visual Sociology Association Annual Conference, which was subsequently published in Visual Studies Journal, FebruaryMay 2023. Work from Paloma’s assemblage series Lo Que No Sabrías (What You Wouldn’t Know) appeared in the same issue. Paloma’s work has been exhibited at El Museo Del Barrio in New York, NY; Burlington City Arts (BCA), Burlington, VT; SOMArts in San Francisco, CA; SPACE Gallery, Portland, ME; Geary Contemporary, Millerton, NY, Unprofessional Variety Show, New York, NY, and the Dorsky Museum in New Paltz, NY where she received the Artist Purchase Award.

In July of 2023, Paloma received an Award of Excellence for their installation in the QUEERwerks exhibition at Silvermine Gallery, New Canaan, CT. Paloma holds a Bachelor’s Degree (BA) in Liberal Studies, a Master’s Degree (MS) in Communicative Disorders from San Francisco State University, and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from Parsons School of Design, The New School, where she/they received the President and University full Scholarship.

Installation view, Embodying Softness/Excavating Delight, 2023. University of Southern Maine Art Gallery, Gorham, Maine. Photo: Jack Stolz.

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