My art practice is an act of instinct, faith and intimacy; I believe that the value of a thing is in the intimacy of that thing; this belief is in defiance of consumer standards and bourgeoisie values. Fundamentally, relationship matters: relation to language, power, and each other. Stripped of its incarnations and trappings, the home is the optimal site of intimacy. Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space explains that:
Words … are little houses, each with its cellar and garret. Common sense lives on the ground floor, always ready to engage in ‘foreign commerce’ on the same level as the others, as the passers-by, who are never dreamers. To go upstairs in the word house is to withdraw step by step; while to go down to the cellar is to dream, it is losing oneself in the distant corridors of an obscure etymology, looking for treasures that cannot be found in words. To mount and descend in the words themselves—this is a poet’s life. To mount too high or descend too low is allowed in the case of poets, who bring earth and sky together.
The nest and the seed are home in its most fundamental form and embody both intimacy and relationship – they are the site of creating life, extending family, expressing love. They are expansion and inclusion. Each is the domain of the dreamer. The hummingbird weaving her nest in anticipation of chicks is instinctual but at once, is a deeply intimate and private act. However spacious the world, we can always find intimacy in a nest. The weaving of this nest and the intimacy of the womb are outside language and it is the job of the dreamer, the poet, the artist, to “bring earth and sky together.” Dreaming happens in the nest and it germinates in the seed.
If melancholia is defined as an always-present ache of an earlier time, the exquisite joy of the infant in intimate connection with the mother, a pre-linguistic state of bliss, then my work is my antidote to this melancholia: the escape of a dreamer. My work is a defiant act of not-naming, of deliberately not-knowing; it’s deeply rebellious and exists outside linguistic constraint. It is therefore exhausting and requires bravery. My practice is the act of building something authentic that will be revealed and yet I cannot imagine. My most recent series was created through this act of discovery, deep focus and escape. It is the antidote to daily life; it is the beauty in the world, and through the deeply focused act of creation, I develop intimacy outside of language with my practice. The finished art is an invented artifact to be included in my imagined taxonomy.
I work across genre and in various media. Besides filmmaking, my studio practice includes ink drawings, printmaking, and small-scale installations. My inspiration is serendipity: scavenged objects; dried out plants, birds, and bugs; found film and photos; scraps of fabric, thread and wire.
My current series of prints and installation are an collection of invented artifacts sorted and categorized into a designated order. Fascinated with nineteenth century apothecaries, taxonomy & collected specimen, scientific illustrations & diagrams, my work borrows from these traditions. Organizing my world through these pseudo-scientific practices I draw attention to the nature of (my own) authority and (my own) narrative - both traditionally the apparatus of colonization; my work transforms these artifacts into objects of invented personal and historical value through the radical act of naming. Through them, I seek to invent earth and sky.
Salome Milstead is an educator, filmmaker, and visual artist who has facilitated student-centered art making with an emphasis on short narrative & experimental filmmaking, animation & installation for over twenty years. Salome is department co-director in the Media Department and an English faculty member at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts (SOTA). Salome teaches a variety of film courses at SOTA including screenwriting, cinematography & art directing, and production courses with a particular interest in installation, animation, and personal experimental filmmaking. Founded by Salome, Summer 2016 marked our second year of the SF Arts Collective, an innovative residency style two-week art program at the Workshop Residence.