Artist Jackie Milad to display work at Lycoming College

Artist Jackie Milad focuses on communication in her work – and not just any communication, but the types that most of us will desperately try to minify and avoid: awkward and failed exchanges. There is nothing awkward or failed in the way the work is presented, however; there is a sureness-of-hand and a clarity that exists alongside – despite even – the subject matter.

Milad works with both drawing and performance art, though only drawings will be presented in the Lycoming College Gallery. She studied painting in Florence, received her bachelor’s degree in fine art from Tufts University and the School of Museum of Fine Arts in Massachusetts, and earned her mater’s degree in fine art from Towson University. Currently living in Baltimore City, where she has her studio, Milad works professionally as a curator and contemporary art collection advisor for the University of Maryland in College Park.

“I have been active in both professions for nearly thirteen years, with starting an artist-run gallery, to later co-founding an international performance art festival,” she said. The Chela Gallery and Transmodern Festival (the gallery and festival, respectively) are still active today.

“This series, along with others in the show, reference a mediated communication, where one speaks for another and where misinterpretation often occurs – a twin speaks for another twin, a ventriloquist speaks for his dummy, a priest speaks for an Oracle at Delphi, and a man speaks for a woman.

“All my work comes from a number of sources: fashion photography, dance, performance art, old yearbooks, photo booth pics, ID photos or just sitting on this bus heading to New York and committing the faces around me to memory. ‘The Portrait Series’ is meant to be my catalogue of facial expressions in which I could reference later for other works. My process begins there – looking at sources and then I draw out works in a very intuitive manner … not too much planning involved, except to include themes or motifs. And like a good art school graduate, I incorporate all my ‘mistakes’ into my final works,” Milad said.

Drawings depict the aforementioned twins, ventriloquists, priests – all over sparse backgrounds where the yellow or white of the paper (the space between figures) plays as much of a role as the figures themselves. Erasure is also never quite all the way – Milad’s “mistakes” hanging there like something said that can’t be taken back. The blacks, whites and golds that surround – and sometimes partially cover – the figures add a depth to the drawings that might not have been there had Milad chosen to use only pen or pencil on paper.

“I am very tied to drawing – I get a lot out of the immediacy of the process and I simply enjoy it. To be honest painting never gave me the same satisfaction; that perhaps has something to do with my impatience. I was lucky to be in an art school for undergrad where experimentation and media-hopping were encouraged, so it feels natural for me at this point to use what best suits the idea,” Milad said.

Culture also plays a role in Milad’s work.

“I observe closely the details of everyday life and how people manage their physical space and relationships,” she said. “I’m interested in verbal and non-verbal languages, especially when it is culturally specific,” she wrote in the first line of her Artist’s Statement. “My parents come from two very different cultures-Egypt and Honduras. In the early part of their life together, including my early childhood, they did not share customs, tradition, language, and certainly not culturally-specific gestures….As a child I was the interpreter and mediator for my parents, when their grasp of English was still developing. So you can see I’ve been thinking about this idea of speaking for others for a very long time.”

Jackie Milad’s “Speak for Me (Ventriloquist)” will be on display in the Lycoming College library gallery from Feb. 21 to March 28. Milad’s reception and gallery talk will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m. today. Milad will discuss her work and field any questions from those in attendance.

Some of Milad’s work will be available to buy and refreshments will be available. For more information about Milad and her work, visit For more information about Lycoming College’s upcoming events visit or call 321-4000.