POUGHKEEPSIE, NY — Andres San Millan describes the oil paintings in his upcoming exhibition at Vassar as "pure human being," devoid of encumbrances, and unconstrained by particularities of time and space. His show "Human," featuring roughly twenty large-scale works by the Red Hook, NY-based artist, will be exhibited June 29 through August at the college's James W. Palmer Gallery, and an opening reception with San Millan will be held there on June 29 from 4:30–6:00 p.m.. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.
The ocean for a Shawl
2004 oil on masonite 48″x48″
Originally from the Basque Country in Spain, San Millan is a dancer and choreographer as well as a visual artist, and the physicality of his paintings reflects his dance training. "For me, the human being is the most complex of all the creatures and the highest object of painting," says San Millan. "There is of course the physical part of it – the fluidity of a person's body changing into an infinite number of positions and shapes – but also the psychological and emotional complexity. And when you throw light on the figure, the possibilities multiply even further. To be able to paint the human being is, for me, the highest challenge."
San Millan came to the U.S. in his early 20s on a three-year grant to study dance at the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab in New York City. There he met his wife Marguerite, also a dancer and choreographer. Shortly after the birth of their first child, they launched the Cocoon Theatre, and to support the growing family while the theater enterprise was in its infancy, San Millan took a job as a house painter. "I was making a living doing that, but I always move toward any kind of creativity I can see in a field. One day, I came across some faux finish painters, and my hair just stood up on my head. It was so beautiful – I couldn't believe what you could do with paint. So I started to improvise with that at home, to investigate and see what I could do."
He became an accomplished faux painter and then moved on to experimenting with decorative murals (and has a number of murals in private residences as well as public murals in various locations in the Hudson Valley). About that time, the San Millans relocated their family and the Cocoon Theatre to Rhinebeck. "I heard that someone was teaching figure painting in Poughkeepsie. Now, I could have done this long before had I known there were places that teach these things. But I didn't know, or at least I didn't know where to look for these people." He began to study with Franklin Alexander, first at the Barrett Art Center, Poughkeepsie and later at the Woodstock School of Art. "I studied with him for three or four years, until finally I had to get him out of my head. He was a very good teacher, but I could hear every word he ever said in every class. I can't paint with somebody talking in my head, telling me what to do. So then I started to just paint on my own."
Since then, San Millan has won several awards for his painting—from the Woodstock School of Art Residency Fellowship and, most recently, the Lucille Blanche Award for "Best of Show" at the Woodstock Artists Association – as well as awards for his work in set design and costume design with the Cocoon Theatre. He continues to perform as a dancer and occasionally as an actor, choreographs and teaches dance, sculpts and paints. Recently, moved by world events – 9/11, the southeast Asian tsunami, conflicts in Iraq and the Middle East – he has begun to explore a new theme: ruins. "They always say that artists have phases, and I never knew what that was because I've been doing the figure for a number of years, and that seemed to be enough. But after 9/11 and the tsunami, I did a series of sculptures of ruins, and recently I did four paintings of ruins in Palestine and Iraq, so that has opened up a different focus for me."
For gallery hours, or to arrange accommodations for people with disabilities, call the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.