In Breaking Patterns, Oakland-based artist Adia Millett delves into issues of identity, personal memory, and collective history. She cycles her evocative imagery through a variety of media, including collage, assemblage, photography, textiles, and painting, creating multilayered representations of deconstructed structures and imaginary interiors that stand in for the human experience and provide a dwelling place for a black aesthetic. A central concern of Millett’s is the history of African Americans, and the history of African American women in particular. Her quilts—made from discarded clothing, sheets, other quilts, and curtains—allude to domesticity and craftwork. Flying Coffee Table (2015), for example, is an elaborate, process-oriented quilt that reveals Millett’s use of improvisation and intuition; the artist disassembled an existing quilt and rearranged it into an irregular, unexpected form.
Breaking Patterns also features Millett’s miniature houses, including Capital Gain (2011), whose intriguing, mirrored interiors are charged with psychological unrest, offering a deep exploration of memory and loss. She photographs these tiny interiors, transforming the spaces into surreal, self-contained vignettes that resemble dreamscapes. Her collages in turn utilize fragments of her photographic prints, and her mixed-media constructions reuse model-making supplies from the miniature houses. As Millett repurposes these subjects and materials, she adds layers of meaning to her work’s distorted spaces and skewed perspectives. Metaphorically, they capture the complexity of the body and, by extension, its potential identities; they also stand as structures for human subjectivity—vessels for multiple psychological states of being.