Oh my god, was I lucky by Janis Miltenberger

Janis, Carol and Janet at MLK Jr, Junior High School, Berkeley, CA 1972, photo by Paula Shiu.

Janis, Carol and Janet at MLK Jr, Junior High School, Berkeley, CA 1972, photo by Paula Shiu.

When you are young everything shapes you, the people, the mood, the air and light. You assume as a child that this is real, and because it is real for you this is what everyone is experiencing. It was only later when I realized what unique alchemy occurred as a child growing up in Berkeley California.

Do you remember the music of the 60’s and early 70’s? The songs that resonated with me were about coming together, helping one another, and LOVE. I recall singing some popular songs at summer camp and feeling the lyrics move me to tears, “If I had a hammer” was one of those that still can make me well up. The culture that I understood revolved around the Golden Rule, equality and acceptance.

Janis, Kim, Audrey, Jane and Nancy as “The Haverettes” (church band), Berkeley High School, 1974. Photo Peter Smith

Janis, Kim, Audrey, Jane and Nancy as “The Haverettes” (church band), Berkeley High School, 1974. Photo Peter Smith

I spent years as a child drawing while listening to music, and it was in these fruitful times that I imagined my life and the creative people who would sustain me. The music was primarily The Beatles but also Aretha, Smokey, Sly, Stones and The Jackson Five.

I fell in love at 15. It was one of those lucky scenarios where childhood fantasies play out fulfilling your best hopes and dreams. He was a few years older and in a band. A group of creative, focused, super fun young men. I could expound on the band and my boyfriend, but what I mainly want to convey are the incredible ingredients, the richness of being surrounded by passionate people discovering their own voice and striving to be seen by the world at large.

Donn (“the one”), Jon, Tommy and Royce.

Donn (“the one”), Jon, Tommy and Royce.

There were times that I had to remind myself that my source of creativity was different. It takes focus to define oneself around such compelling people and eventually I had to pull away and attend to my own course.

I am still so grateful to my early creative friends who helped me create a template of the path forward.

At 19, photo by Ralph Granich.

At 19, photo by Ralph Granich.

 

Constant Companion by Janis Miltenberger

Constant Companion, 10’H x 11’L x 4’D, pictured here at the Bellevue Art Museum’s “Glasstastic” show 2019. Photos by, Alec Miller Photography.

Constant Companion, 10’H x 11’L x 4’D, pictured here at the Bellevue Art Museum’s “Glasstastic” show 2019. Photos by, Alec Miller Photography.

I have vivid memories of time spent swinging on park swing sets. Thinking back I realized that while swinging I was accompanied by an additional presence, in the vague shadow form of sadness. Swinging allowed a private contemplation time, perhaps even the motion itself allowed a physical/neurological component which tapped into some deeper part of my young self. 

Glass in this instance is acting as a good metaphor for childhood; dreamlike transparency, combined with natural integrity and fragility.

I would like to thank Artist Trust for supporting this work by choosing this project for a 2017 GAP grant.

Sounds, faces, interaction.

Tenderfooted by Janis Miltenberger

A lovely photo captured by Ümmihan Agirman.

The wind unsettles me and it is very windy and cold out there. From my bed I hear the gusts and the consequent stretching of all the structures, the trees, the gate all bending in it’s force. And I find myself awake with thoughts that during the day were just small challenges but now loom large and ominous. The cacophony of accumulated internal voices rise to match the crescendo of the wind’s force and I abandon any chance of sleep. Oh for gods sake what am I so stressed about? Two demos, in the next few months I am doing two demos, what on earth do I have, what skills do I have to share? Yes of course in the morning all these questioning parts will settle and rest and I will have a clearer sense of which course to take.

I am no slacker, for years I have put in the hours needed to become skilled at what I enjoy making, but I think the real skill lies in the approach. In the setting of a demo how can I impart my approach in an hour and a half? How do you engage and tease the audience into new possibilities?

Many glass enthusiasts/artists focus on technique and process, for the majority it is all about replication. Each technique has it’s limitations and strengths and these are very much tied into what is doable and reasonable within that particular skill set.

I will be playing to my people, not the ones closest, near and dear to me in spirit, but closer than any others as a collective group. My goal and hope is to spark one, if I am lucky.






Listening by Janis Miltenberger

Dividing Line Photo credits: Peter Kuhnlein @ACME Creative

Dividing Line
Photo credits: Peter Kuhnlein @ACME Creative

Dividing Line detail Photo credits: Peter Kuhnlein @ACME Creative

Dividing Line detail
Photo credits: Peter Kuhnlein @ACME Creative

My newest work are a series of four wall pieces. All four of the series are mounted on steel frames approx. 30"H x 20"W x 4.5"D  they are mounted to the wall on an adjustable steel french cleat.

Guided by my interest in history and our human ability to make sense of the world through stories and myth, I did some exploring into how medicinal plants were discovered. I came across the Doctrine Of Signatures, which simply stated was a commonly held belief that the outward appearance of a plant was a God-given sign of the medicinal value contained within (CE 40-80). The notion that there was a god or supreme spirit guiding us, was a belief carried by many peoples across the globe. If we were observant of the growing conditions, outward appearance, sap or root structure of a plant, these would be a signs of it’s medicinal properties. Regardless if this is scientifically true, I embrace the thought. These observations lead me, they nurture and give nuance. Overall what inspires me in this series is how committed people were to listening, and out of that quiet place this body of work was born.