Artist Adam Milner recently completed a unique, two-year project with the Clyfford Still Museum (CSM), concluding with the forthcoming publication, Museum of the Invisible Woman. During the project, Milner combined archival research with in-situ interventions at the Museum to center explorations around Patricia Still, Clyfford Stills second wife, who dedicated her life to his painting career and eventually to fulfilling Stills vision for the Museum.
The book repositions Clyfford Still as an artist dependent on community and the labor of loved ones, rather than the usual narrative of outsider, rebel, or loner genius. In the publication, themes surrounding love, labor, gender, ego, and legacy ultimately shift attention from the abstract expressionist master to his wife and to museum staff. Designed and edited by Milner, Museum of the Invisible Woman (Clyfford Still Museum and Adam Milner, 2021, softbound with jacket, 144 pages, color) will be available in the Clyfford Still Museum Shop and online in the coming weeks.
The book features text by Milner, a foreword by former CSM Director Dean Sobel, and newly-commissioned texts by David J. Getsy, Patricia Failing, and Rickey Laurentiis. Getsys text analyzes Milners interventions in the Clyfford Still Museum and the unrequited love of making artwork in an institution that cannot avow it. Failing provides a biography of Patricia Still, which is the first piece of writing to focus on Patricia as a central figure. Laurentiis epilogue and comments throughout the book reflect on the men who overlook their women peers. To receive a copy of the publication for review, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milners interventions in the Museum throughout the project spanned several years and were often unseen or secretive actions. For example, Milner spent an entire night in the Museum, observing the actions of the security team in late 2018. Milner returned again to spend another night in the Museum, considering the paintings in darkness. In 2019, Milner suggestively scented the galleries with two vintage perfumes matching those discovered in the Clyfford Still Archives, which are believed to have belonged to Patricia Still.
While Still is known as an outsider or rebel, someone whose relationships with other artists, dealers, and critics were exceptionally fraught, there was always Patricia, said Milner. She is all over the archives and Museum alreadyher handwriting, systems, and methods. The Museum is as much a product of her labor as anyones. This project had to be about the people behind the scenesby giving them some attribution, the myth of the lone genius artist disintegrates. This myth is a problem because it erases ideas of community, vulnerability, and love.
Milners most recent visit to the Museum in October 2020 consisted of sleeping in the south painting storage, collecting detritus from paintings, and exploring the galleries while wearing a pink suit recreated to match one worn by Patricia Still. I was interested in what I could learn from the various facets of the Museum that keep it operatingsecurity, conservation, archives, etc., said Milner. The archivesbeing this dense web of thoughts, fears, and desires, taking the form of letters, diaries, and research imagesbecame a way to hallucinate within a kind of collective brain that makes up the man Clyfford Still.
Milner will be in conversation with Bailey Placzek, CSM associate curator during a free, virtual panel discussion at 6 p.m. MST on February 25. The book will be available online soon at http://shop.clyffordstillmuseum.org/
Adam Milner is an artist whose sprawling practice includes sculptures, drawings, videos, texts, and interventions which draw from deeply personal experiences to point toward a broader ethics of how we engage with the things around us. The museum has long been a subject of Milner's work, and collecting, archiving, and hoarding are considered for what these practices can reveal about value, power, desire, care, and subjectivity. Milner has exhibited at the Mattress Factory, The Warhol, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the Aspen Art Museum, the Everson Museum of Art, Black Cube Nomadic Museum, and Casa Maauad, among others.