Ann Millett-Gallant is an art historian, disability studies scholar, and visual artist who specializes in painting and collage. She holds a PhD in art history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and currently serves as a Senior Lecturer for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Q: What inspired you to write Re-Membering?
A: The book began when I wrote a response to an essay assignment for one the classes I teach. The topic was “loss and discovery,” and I saw a lot of connections between this theme and my own experiences. I then just began writing journal entries about ideas for the book. The book chronicles an accident I experienced in 2007, which caused traumatic brain injury, and my numerous methods for recovery. It was both emotional and cathartic for me to write it and to do the paintings and collages that are featured in it.
Q: Have you always had such a profound interest in art? Was your passion inspired by a particular artist, or experience in your life?
A: I have always enjoyed drawing and painting. I always loved going to art museums and taking art classes from a young age. In high school, I was in a fine arts vocational program, and I majored in art history in college and graduate school.
Q: In Re-Membering, you often describe the process of writing as therapeutic. Is there specific utility in using writing as therapy rather than traditional arts, like painting, drawing, or collage?
A: For me, writing is the most spontaneous of these methods of expression. I can put down many ideas at once, sift through them later, and revise again.
Q: Does art therapy have different benefits for you over more traditional therapies, like talk therapy?
A: I think it does. Art activities make those in therapy relax and engage with creative forms of expression.
Q: Who is your favorite artist or school of art?
A: My favorite artist is Frida Kahlo, because of her dramatic subject matter and use of vivid color. My self-portrait, “Self-Portrait with Flowers,” displayed on the cover of my memoir, was influenced by Kahlo’s many striking self-portraits, especially the ones with the flora and fauna of Mexico. I also have done a number of small scale paintings of flowers, in bright and sparkling colors, as well as pet portraits.
Q: Who is your least favorite artist or school of art?
A: I do not like some works of performance art that involve violence, dead animals, and body fluids. They simply gross me out. The work of Viennese Actionists are examples, or the early work of Chris Burden and Vito Acconci.
Q: How would you classify your own art?
A: I would call it expressive. I use a lot of color and layering of materials.
Q: Looking back over your teaching career, what has been your favorite class to teach?
A: In graduate school, I taught a course on the role of the body in social theory that was very simulating. I now teach a course based on my first book, The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010), titled “Visualing Disability,” and I enjoy the students’ interests and questions.
Q: What work are you excited about now? Are you in the middle of a painting, or paper?
A: I have completed my memoir, and I am working on small paintings and collages in my free time. I have been painting many 12 in x 12 in acrylic paintings of single flowers, vegetables (in particular, and heirloom tomato), and portraits of my cats.
Q: What is the biggest message you hope readers of Re-Membering will take away after reading the book?
A: I would like readers to learn about the power of hope, as well as art, in our everyday lives, and especially in the processes of healing.