Wardell Milan

By
Photography Christian MacDonald

Published December 2, 2015

AGE: 37.

ORIGINALLY FROM: Knoxville, TN.

CURRENTLY LIVE: Spanish Harlem, Manhattan.

GALLERY: David Nolan Gallery, New York.

DESCRIPTION OF WORK: My interest in working in multiple mediums and disciplines is very much a part of my creative practice.

WHEN YOU FIRST CONSIDERED YOURSELF A FULL-TIME ARTIST: In 2006 I resigned from the job I held at Box Studios (a high-end photo retouching studio). Since then, I’ve worked and sustained myself as a full-time artist. However, I’ve considered myself an “artist” since the age of 9. When I was an adolescent, my parents recognized my creative interests and artistic talents. With that recognition, my mother and father enrolled me in after-school and weekend art classes. There was no escaping me becoming an artist.

THE MOST SUCCESSFUL OR CHALLENGING WORK YOU’VE MADE: The work produced during 2010–11. At the time, I had no gallery representation. America’s economic bubble had burst, so sales of my work were infrequent, and my exhibition schedule was equally sporadic. With part of my apartment functioning as my studio, the feeling of regression was overwhelming. I never questioned being an artist, but I did question the work I was creating, doubtful that the art being made was of any success. The work made during this period isn’t successful because it marks a pivotal shift in the maturation of my practice or because I was creating a stunning series of drawings—in fact, most of the work was destroyed and trashed. The success is that, during this time, the work never stopped asking to be made. The creative flame never burnt out.

HELPFUL ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED FROM ANOTHER ARTIST: The fashion designer Duro Olowu recently visited me in my studio, and he said, “Work in the way you want to be perceived.” I think this is simple yet brilliant advice. Many years ago, the great Roni Horn gave me the best advice: “Embrace your idiosyncrasies.”

DOES THE CURRENT ART WORLD FOSTER OR DEVOUR TALENT? I believe the art world has the propensity to be both an agent of nurture and a greedy carnivore of talent. For some artists, particularly young artists, the challenge is recognizing when the person with whom they are working isn’t trustworthy. The art world can be enigmatic with a cast of maniacal characters. But it’s also a world populated with nourishing advocates who foster, champion, and perennially celebrate artists.

FAVORITE SONG: This is a very difficult question to answer. I have a tie: Janet Jackson’s “Night” and Disclosure’s “Magnets,” featuring Lorde. Oh, and Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”