Mist of the Earth: Denise Milan: A Stunning Exhibition Of The Brazilian Atlantic Forest Region


Brazilian artist, environmentalist and visionary, Denise Milan, has been an enriching part of my personal and professional life for over twenty-five years. We met in São Paulo during the 1989 São Paulo Biennale when as Executive Director of the Jamaica Arts Center, the community based arts organization in New York, I led an enthusiastic group of art lovers to São Paulo to attend the opening of our installation of sculpture by Martin Puryear, the official U.S. representative to this prestigious international exhibition.

 It was during this visit to São Paulo that a budding acquaintance with Denise was spawned. I was drawn to her work and a world of discovery that she presented to me through her stone constructs and the multilayered tableaus that resonated throughout her installations in São Paulo. When asked to describe her body of work she says, she uses the stone as the creative axis and inspiration for her work. I should add that the breath of her output since I have followed her includes: public art, performing arts, poetry, printmaking and video. She is a driven artist.

 Our connections, deepened through the decades, have resulted in collaborations on projects in the U.S. that have included a major stone sculptural permanent installation - America's Courtyard - on the lakefront near the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, a photographic exhibition 'Mist of the Earth” at the Chicago Cultural Center, and recently presented at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

Denise has been absorbed and challenged by the topography of Brazil. Its often hidden history, particularly the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest, Salvador de Bahia, have spurred her research into the essence of its treasures and the threats. She has discovered through continuing treks that have included her intrepid photographic documentation and her relationships with residents of villages, struggling to survive, and a place that she needed to share with the world.

Manuela Mena, Senior Curator of 18th Century Painting at Museo National del Prado summarizes the exhibition, "Denise Milan presents the Atlantic Forest as the vision of a fascinating world seen through the artist's eyes and imagination. The photos, taken over the course of several years at Cairucu, near Paraty, of the jungle, have been used in a process of metamorphosis going deeply beyond the species appearance, to an understanding of the intimate fusion between nature and its inhabitants."

It was in and round Paraty, a colonial enclave, where a few years ago I observed the essence of this paradise during an escape of unrivaled "take your breath away" beauty when I was a guest at her beach house.  I found the spectacular magical setting touchable. A Lonely Planet tour guide narrative describes Paraty: "set amid jutting peninsulas and secluded beaches with a backdrop of steep, jungled mountains plunging into an island studded bay."

 To learn more about Denise Milan her work, and to see this exhibit visit:






 Pat Johnson

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