Millicent Kennedy is a Chicago based artist who's practice utilizes textiles in their image making and sculptural potential using machine and hand stitching, printmaking, natural dye, and installation art.
Kennedy serves as the Curator of Exhibitions at the Fine Arts Center Gallery in Northeastern Illinois University and has previously served as the Gallery Director at Rockford University, they currently teach classes and workshops in and around Chicago, where their studio is located.
They received a Bachelor's Degree from Northeastern Illinois University and MFA from Northern Illinois University where they were awarded the Helen Merritt Fellowship. They’ve received solo exhibitions from Belong Gallery, SXU Art Gallery, Roman Susan and Parlour and Ramp, as well as site specific installations with Charles Allis Art Museum, Terrain Exhibitions Biennial, and Purple Window Gallery.
They have received artist residencies with Roman Susan, Terrain Exhibitions and Lillstreet Art Center.
"Millicent Kennedy’s practice is interested in how we archive a physical world in flux. Utilizing print, natural dyed textiles and found objects, their practice as a whole is interested in connecting two or more things that could seem separate or worn away from one another. Like dyeing and mending, the alchemy is in the labor and material itself, that lead to transformation. Working with natural dyes and found objects, these stitched wall hanging and sculptural pieces are shaped by the work that the artist inhabits, one full of broken and neglected objects, but also full of the hope for reimagining the world we have. As an artist and educator Kennedy is invested in teaching workshops using safe and sustainable practices that empower makers to connect to the natural world and their community, making their practice both personal and social."
Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.
I have been in Chicago since 2009, and grew up in Mississippi, where I spent a lot of time making things on my own as the youngest in my blended family with very busy parents. In high school I took early college classes at SAIC and fell in love with Chicago, and moved out on my own. I love the community in Chicago, and found my way into teaching skills that I love for using in my practice (printmaking, book arts, stitching, natural dye) and organizing exhibitions. Between all these I live a life rich in art and surrounded by fellow artists.
What kind of work are you currently making?
I am currently working on a series that is made with naturally dyed textiles, that have been manipulated in a variety of methods. After layers and layers of dyeing and image building, some are stitched to an armature, others folded and mounted to a concrete like structure. My aim is to have them exist between sculpture and image making, in that magical way that fabric does, but we don't often think about.
What is a day like in the studio for you?
I schedule my studio time in my calendar to hold myself accountable, and often before I make it to the studio I will already have a to-do list ready for me. Because many of my processes need time to dry/cure/cook in the dye pot, I try to plan tasks that I can work on while in that "negative space" time. This usually leads to be working on alot of pieces simultaneously.
While the stitching aspect of my practice requires more undivided focus. I try to plan the more active tasks for the morning and more slow pace tasks for the afternoon. I also love bringing others into my studio, and letting them dye cloth with me. Part of the practice that I love is its communal nature.
What are you looking at right now and/or reading?
Alongside my ongoing research into natural dye, I also consume a lot of books about the history and social implications of everyday items, recently reading Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle, The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History, The Secret Lives of Color; and Lives in Ruins: Archeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble.
I am getting a larger work ready for a museum show, and am planning to take advantage of the space that is available to work on an installation, so Ann Hamilton is high on my list of inspirations at the moment.
Where can we find more of your work?