MSAC Individual Artist Award (IAA)Prior to 2012
Artist StatementUsing humor and metaphor I visually describe the vagaries and challenges of being human. I work quickly and with a sense of urgency. When I draw onto paper or scratch into clay I’m trying to make sense of the world, one figure at a time. They’re symbolic, players in a larger story. I use a cartoon-like style, reminiscent of children’s drawings. I don’t use a horizon line, specific light source, or other indication of time or place. The figures inhabit their own world and follow their own rules. I’m an observer of human behavior. What drives us? What makes us tick? What happens during the all-important encounters that continually occur? How can I, using tangible materials and literal images, describe what can’t be seen? The figures are important but it’s what’s happening between them that I’m after. The “Shouting Sticks”, for example, have recently been used by a group of angry protestors who have put them down hurriedly after the march has ended. Topics that resonate for me personally, and at the same time open up new ways of looking at social issues, are rich with potential. I begin with a large, compelling idea: “Women”, for example. I develop and research questions, investigating facets of the topic until I find a way in. I address questions such as; “Why do women not contest male sovereignty?” Choices of materials are determined largely by the ideas being expressed. I’m looking for the power of numbers when I create large populations of sculptural or drawn figures. The sculptures that appear in the installation, “Pushovers Unite", based loosely on the old clown toy that comes right back up after being punched, are uniting in solidarity against oppressive forces and regimes. The hundreds of small faces in the “Encounters” installation are intended to show the significant similarities between us while at the same time, suggest the profound differences that, when addressed, can either unite or divide us.
Mia Halton evokes the complexity of domestic life in paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures. Her works are dense with images of figures making their way through heavily layered surfaces. Halton integrates images and materials to create works that reflect the energy and emotions of human interactions.
Halton grew up in a family of artists, including her maternal grandparents and her mother. She remembers her early art making as both a refuge and a way to make sense of the emotional vagaries of family life. At Kenyon College she majored in art and religion, and while there she encountered the work of the French artist Jean Dubuffet. He was a seminal discovery for her, for his ability to access the dark side of inner life, and for his direct use of raw materiality. Other painters important to Halton’s development have been Jackson Pollock, for his intuitive layering of paint in over-all compositions, and Philip Guston for his straight-forward, bold drawing and his existential examination of the self. After college, Halton moved back to the East Coast, and began her teaching career. After a period of independent work, she studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she received an MFA in 1985. While in graduate school, Halton worked on sheets of Luon plywood, and created process-oriented paintings. This exploration of paint’s material qualities anticipates the physicality of her current work. While in school, Halton became involved with printmaking, which she continued to pursue in an Artist’s Residency at the University of Maryland.
Color has played a crucial role in Halton’s work, moving from the acid, pastel colors of her work as a graduate student, to the darker palette of her post-school years, to her present use of rich, jewel-like hues, often contrasting with fields of white. From the beginning the role of figures was central, ranging from cartoon-like, graphic images to more gestural forms. It is the pictorial space between the figures and forms that has continually evolved in Halton’s work. Printmaking has given her work a layered transparency, while her prints have a strong painterly quality. Halton’s graphic experience extended to a fabric design business which she ran from the early 1990s until 2002.
Halton’s work since then incorporates some of the repetition and pattern developed in her fabric designs. Her more recent body of paintings and drawings displays a growing vocabulary of mark-making, a refinement of technique and a deepening psychological engagement. In 2013 a family tragedy precipitated her beginning to use clay. The physicality of the material allowed Halton to explore her emotions while at the same time opened up new ways of looking at the larger social issues brought up by the tragic event.
She has shown her work extensively, including exhibitions at the Orange County Museum of Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, Clayworks in Baltimore, OK Harris Works of Art, New York, Gallery K, Washington, D.C., Malton Gallery, Cleveland and Gomez Gallery, Baltimore. Halton’s work is in the collections of the U.S. State Department and Kenyon College, and in numerous private collections.