Understory: Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann + Jackie Milad

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Understory: Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann + Jackie Milad

November 8, 2023 – January 14, 2024

Gibbs Street Gallery

VisArts presents Understory, a two-person exhibition by artists Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann and Jackie Milad. Understory combines painting with collage, sculpture, and installation to examine themes of accumulation, fragmentation, excavation, landscape, and identity.  

Both artists create large-scale paintings on paper and canvas, combining elements of collage with repetitive drawings and fragments from personal lexicons and mythology. These works create a somewhat maximalist, and at times overwhelming, environment – one that creates an entry into abstract worlds that draw from Mann’s and Milad’s backgrounds as Asian American and Honduran-Egyptian American artists.  


About the Artists

Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann 

I examine landscape painting, environment, and cultural estrangement by building luxuriant, cinematically scaled paper paintings and installations. These combine romantic, utopian, and immersive sensibilities from both Chinese and Western landscape painting traditions, with a lexicon drawn from a personal mythology informed by my identity as a biracial, second-generation Asian American: ribbons, baubles, bats, peaches, sperm, piles of flowers repeated so many times as to appear biomorphic and alien, but bursting with incongruous efflorescence. This work addresses two primary concerns: the exploration of landscape in a world where “landscape” is defined through an ever-widening field of digital, graphic, and visual forms, and the insertion of personal world building – a world of fragmentation, hybridity, and incongruity—into that history. 

Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann is the recipient of the Sustainable Arts Foundation grant, a Fulbright grant, the AIR Gallery and Lower East Side Printshop Keyholder Fellowships, and the Mayor’s Award and Hamiltonian Fellowship in Washington, DC. Venues where Mann has shown her work include the Kreeger Museum, Academy Art Museum, Walters Art Museum, American University Museum, Tides Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Rawls Museum, the US consulate in Dubai, UAE, and the US embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon. 

Jackie Milad 

My work explores the layering of transcultural history in Central America and the Middle East. I link the universal topic of cultural layering and documentation with my own multicultural identity by blending and packing in what appears to be disparate imagery, icons, and language (graffiti, rap lyrics, popular slang, etc).

My layered compositions not only mimic my own upbringing, but also symbolize the way cultures are recorded and monumentalized in remaining fragments over time. I aim to obfuscate the meaning of my pieces to prevent a single reading of the work, hoping this embraces the complexity of the pieces and their analogy to global history. 

I also excavate my earlier artworks and splice them into new pieces, in a purposefully confusing and chaotic manner. Artworks that were once static and stored away become repurposed and responsive in dynamic compositions. 

Jackie Milad is a Baltimore City-based artist whose mixed media abstract paintings and collages address the history and complexities of dispersed cultural heritage and multi-ethnic identity. She has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally. Select exhibitions include The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, MD), The Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD), Academy Art Museum (Easton, MD), Weatherspoon Art Museum (Greensboro, NC), The Mint Museum (Charlotte, NC), Arthur Ross Gallery University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA), and Harvey B. Gantt Center (Charlotte, NC). 

Milad is a multiyear recipient of the Individual Artist Grant from Maryland State Arts Council. In 2019, she was named a Janet & Walter Sondheim Prize Finalist and a Robert W. Deutsch Foundation Ruby Grantee. In 2022, she received the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City Travel Prize to conduct in-depth research on the Egyptian antiquities held at the British Museum and Petrie Museums in London, England. 


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