Marriott Library Hosts Open House for Artist and Activist Denise Milan

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A half hour before the event Wednesday afternoon, a crowd was gathering, jittery and excited to meet world-renowned Brazilian artist and activist Denise Milan.

The reception began when Milan arrived with Elan Shtromberg, a professor in art history. The crowd then moved into the reception room on the first floor, beside “Paradise,” the first gallery of her work.

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Rebecca Horne, director of Latin American studies, introduced Milan and gave a brief statement on the collection. Milan has been featured in several important museums throughout the world and now has come to Salt Lake City. She has achieved much success as a result of her ingenuity and creativity, changing the face of contemporary art and “transforming chaos into order,” Horne said.

Following this, Paulo Sotero, director of the Wilson Center in D.C., preceded Milan and gave a small personal introduction.

“[It is] important to bring Denise’s work to this part of the world, to this part of the states, where you are surrounded by rocks and mountains,” Sotero said. “She finds stars in the stones.”

There were “so many beautiful things. I felt so enlightened,” Melody Gehring, a senior in Latin American studies, said. She also said these pieces were some of the “most creative and wonderful” she’s seen.

Gehring said Milan came to her art history class earlier on Jan. 27, which likely inspired many students to come to the reception.

Shtromberg, who taught the course Gehring was in, said she brought Milan to her class because she knew “her students do not get a lot of exposure and wanted to take advantage of the unique opportunity.”

Milan’s work may seem like an odd choice for the library, but Brazilian culture has been of particular importance to many areas of the university for the past decade. The library houses hundreds of books, articles and, now, art pieces about Brazil and its vibrant history.

The artwork is amazing and provocative. Each level of the library had one section of her work, “Paradise,” “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained,” respectively. Each level had its own beauty and intrigue.

The collection is “really fascinating. Milan has an amazing eye,” said Jayne Nelson, associate director at the Hinckley Institute.

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Milan spoke on her collection and how she was inspired to create it. Her book, “Mist of the Earth,” details her exploration of the lives of the rainforest. Using these themes, she teaches one simple lesson: “listen to the movements and dynamics of nature.” An artist and activist, Milan’s exhibit promotes sustainability and awareness. Most of Milan’s work is part of a permanent collection at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Ian Godfrey, director of library facilities at the Marriott Library, said the “response has been incredible.”

There were between 40 and 50 people at the reception. This nearly doubled the expected turn-out, according to Matthew Kirkegaard, a student employee at the Hinckley Institute. Milan’s collection is on display at the library until Mar. 17 on the first, third and fifth floors.

m.murri@dailyutahchronicle.com

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