By Kristina Houck
For years, Del Mar artist Juliette Milner kept her work to herself.
In August, the 44-year-old will unveil “Gathering Momentum…” a collection of dance paintings at the Mandell Weiss Gallery at Liberty Station.
“It’s quite a new thing for me to actually come out and show my work,” said Milner, who first publicly shared her paintings in March at Basic in San Diego.
“I still go into complete panic mode wondering whether it’s a compete disaster or not. People seem to like the work, so I guess I should be reassured, but I think artists never are.”
Born in London, Milner was raised in an artistic family. Her father was an actor before going into law. Her mother was an actress and dancer who performed alongside bands such as the Beatles. Although she never had formal training, at 4 years old, Milner learned to draw from her grandfather, a jazz musician and art enthusiast.
Despite her passion for art, Milner graduated from the Architectural Association in London and became an architect. She has worked on projects ranging from urban planning to award-winning performing arts buildings.
Milner moved to the U.S. to teach architecture in Los Angeles. Most recently, she taught at Woodbury University School of Architecture in San Diego.
“I think at heart, I’ve always been more of an artist than an architect and a teacher, but it’s a risk to try and do it,” said Milner, who has lived in Del Mar since 2000.
With the support of her husband and four children, Milner decided to focus on art full-time about three years ago. The death of her mother last year also influenced Milner to begin taking dance lessons, which inspired her paintings.
“I think that gives you a sense that you have to be true to yourself,” said Milner, who also lost her father when she was young. “They were both in theater, film and dance, and dance was also a way to connect back to them somehow. I started to dance more and it became a huge passion for me. I wanted to paint it somehow.”
From contemporary to hip-hop, Milner continues to learn a variety of dance styles.
“I’m not a fantastic dancer, but I love doing it and I put my heart into it,” said Milner, who took ballet and tap lessons as a child. “I find when I’m painting, I’m painting somewhere between the felt experience — when I dance myself or the memory of something I’ve seen or watched — and a fantasy world of my own where I kind of lose myself.”
Inspired by the movement of the human body, Milner paints dancers and sometimes surfers.
“I try to capture that rush when you’re up against gravity and you feel like you’re going to fall but then you don’t. Something stops you and you fly,” Milner said.
“That’s the kind of exhilaration that I try to capture — those dynamic moments in life.”
Sprawled on the floor and often with paint in her hair, Milner paints with acrylic oils. Sometimes, she later digitally alters her pieces.
“There’s this kind of random chance element to it, which I like,” she said. “I never quite know how it’s going to turn out. It’s very experimental.”
In addition to her art, Milner’s art show opening will feature live dance performances by the San Diego Dance Theater. A portion of sales proceeds will benefit the San Diego Dance Theater.
“You feel really alive when you dance. When you lose yourself in music and rhythm, there’s nothing like it,” Milner said. “The chance to be able to help and support choreographers at the San Diego Dance Theater is wonderful. They’re really incredible. Their work is stunning.”
The free event will take place 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Aug. 2 at the Mandell Weiss Gallery located at 2650 Truxtun Road in San Diego.