There is a lot of suffering due to conflicts in our world.
But how much?
Due to how many current wars and conflicts?
I didn’t know.
I went looking for answers.
Dan Mills makes work that is full of observations on historical and current events. He conducts extensive research on topics such as colonialism, imperialism, contested territories, displacement, global wars and conflicts, mass incarceration, national murder rates, and the prevalence of indigenous place names in the United States, and creates paintings and works on paper that visualize the data he has uncovered. Mills frequently uses maps as the space to explore his ideas. In the early 1990s he began incorporating maps into his work while researching the quincentennial of what is euphemistically referred to as “The First Encounter,” when the Pilgrims first made contact with the Nauset tribe of the Wampanoag Nation on the eastern shores of what would become North America. Since then, with a wide range of maps as a starting point, Mills has explored history and colonization in paintings and collages on large roll-down school maps and in an atlas of he created addressing global imperialism. In addition, he has examined the loss of history through an approach involving erasure and over-painting, visualized data on current wars and conflicts, and mined data on “life, liberty, and the pursuit of (American) happiness.” Most recently, Mills has contributed to his ongoing series, What’s in a Name? USA, and has created a new painting focusing on Poland, its shifting borders, and the history and colorful names of its leaders from the sixth to the eighteenth century.
While data on their own can be impersonal, removing us from the subject and those affected, Mills, as noted recently in Hyperallergic’s review of this body of work, “delves into the devastating numbers and then converts them into chaotically beautiful cartographies.” The author, Carl Little, continues by noting that “the central paradox of his map pieces is that, even as they record the woes of the world, they are stunning and seductive. The visuals engage; the numbers appall.” The duality of the appealing qualities and the appalling nature of Mills’ practice, with both given equal weight, engage us at a moment in history when we are seeking new answers to old questions—answers that we thought we already knew.
Mills has exhibited widely, having had solo shows in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as well as academic museums and galleries throughout the U.S. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including “Crooked Data: (Mis)Information in Contemporary Art” (University of Richmond Museums, 2017); “Ideologue” (Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City, 2016); “Dissident Futures” (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, 2013–14); and the solo exhibition, “Human Topographies” (Center for Main Contemporary
Art, Rockland, 2019), and a version of the latter exhibition at the Museum of Art at the University of New Hampshire (2020). The Herron School of Art and Design’s presentation of “Human Topographies” includes many works from the Maine and New Hampshire exhibitions, as well as a number of new works exhibited for the first time.
Mills has been a frequent speaker, panelist or interviewee at the Chicago Cultural Center, Maine Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI), the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, and Vanderbilt University, among other institutions. His work has been featured in numerous publications including Flash Art International, Hyperallergic, the Journal of Landscape Architecture, the Los Angeles Times, and New Art Examiner. His book, US Future States Atlas: An Atlas of Global Imperialism, was published by Perceval Press, Santa Monica, in 2009. Mills’ work is in several collections, including the British Library, the University of California, Los Angeles, the Library of Congress, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Union College.
Mills recieved a B.F.A. from the Rochester Institute of Technology and an M.F.A. from Northern Illinois University. He has studios in a mill building in southern Maine and outer Cape Cod. Mills and his wife, the artist Gail Skudera,
live in Lewiston, Maine, where he is director of the Bates College Museum of Art.