Laura Shill and Adam Milner: Tracing Absence

Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC)

July 20 – September 8, 2012

  • Curated by Marlow Hoffman
  • Opening Reception: Friday, July 20, 6–9 pm
  • Gallery Talk with Laura Shill and Adam Milner: Wednesday, August 22, 7 pm ($5/$3 members)
  • Conversation with Elissa Auther and Melinda Barlow: Saturday, September 8, 4 pm ($5/$3 members)followed by closing reception and Photo Booth with Laura Shill, 5.30-7 pm (free)
Laura Shill: Untitled Performance # 3, 2012. 16 x 20 in. (left)
Adam Milner: Untitled from the Discreet series, 2012. 12.5 x 8.5 in. (right)

Adam Milner and Laura Shill - photo by Ken Hamel/

(from the press release)

Tracing Absence features emerging artists Laura Shill and Adam Milner, two creators and collectors of faceless portraits. Drawing upon 19th century “hidden mother” tintypes, Shill’s installation re-envisions the historic photographer’s studio as a feminine, bodily space, while Milner’s portraits of anonymous men—prompted by his catalog of strangers and intimate spaces from the internet—explores notions of closeness, gender conformity and identity. – Marlow Hoffman, curator

Laura Shill – Artist Statement: Some years back, tintype collectors began peeling away the paper frames that vignetted their photographs, and what they discovered was startling. Images once thought to be photos of lone children perched atop oversized chairs revealed a haunting presence. They were, in fact, being held by veiled figures, most likely, their mothers. If not fully covered with fabric, then often these women’s heads have been cropped off by the camera, or their faces scratched away from the photographic surface. Sometimes they can be seen crouching behind chairs, or they appear only as disembodied hands, reaching into the frames. They have come to be known as “hidden mothers.”

What do these early images say of the women who are hidden in them? My practice expands on the notion that the camera creates a stage for us to act out possible selves for the camera. I re-imagine the historic itinerant photographer’s studio and cast myself as photographer. With my subject’s compliance, we go beneath the veil to simultaneously construct and negate imagined identities, creating an absent presence reminiscent of the hidden mothers. The process makes me wonder whether we are bound to our inherited identities or if we can shed them, if only momentarily, before the camera.

Adam Milner – Artist Statement: Repetition, ritual, and endurance on a daily scale form the basis of my practice, and are used as a way to blur art with my normal routines and experiences.

My practice relies heavily on documentation, and the viewer of my work often sees artifacts, evidence, or other residue left over from actions taken in my personal life. Constantly documenting and building archives, I become a sort of anthropologist and collector of my own life and experiences.

This selection of projects reflects the “ongoingness” that defines my work, and focuses on a very specific element of my life and practice where I engage in meeting strangers via the internet. I grew up sneaking into chat-rooms as a child, first confessed my love to someone through a video chat conversation, and have an online catalogue of my friends due to social media sites. It’s no wonder why I am drawn to meeting people and relating to them through social media. In these projects I present images I have collected and made over the course of some of these meetings. In these works, the digital and physical collide as I work through ideas of closeness, vulnerability, intimacy, place, gender norms, and identity.

Works by Adam Milner are included in several other regional exhibitions this summer: Continental Drift at MCA Denver, July 13 - September 23, (opening reception Friday, July 13), Faces, Places and Spaces at the Arvada Center, June 7 - August 26, and Sensitive and Emotional (with Kelcy Chase Folsom) at Vertigo Art Space, Denver, July 19 – August 10.

Marlow Hoffman (curator) has held a variety of arts administrative positions in museums, art centers and contemporary art galleries. She recently returned to her hometown of Denver and works as the Exhibitions & Education Coordinator for the Eames Office. Hoffman earned her BA in Art History and Italian Language from Washington University in St. Louis and her MFA in Visual Art (Photography) from Boise State University. She has organized several exhibitions, including Melissa Ann Pinney: Girl Ascending, Suburban/Domestic: The Nature of Love & Family and the Fifth Annual Fine Art of Print.

Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC)
445 South Saulsbury
Lakewood, CO 80226
Tue-Fri: Noon-8:00pm
Sat/Sun: Noon-6:00pm