Artist Profile: Dean Millien’s Foiled Fun at Con Artist

Posted on: March 19th, 2012 at 10:28 am by

We all had that friend in junior high who, after eating lunch, would fashion the aluminum foil wrappers into random objects. Being boys, that inevitably devolved into some sort of phallic shape followed by a timely wise-crack. For some it’s deemed a passing phase, but for others, a serious form of artistic expression. As to the latter, look no further than 157 Suffolk Street.

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They call him the “Tin Man,” but we sure as shit ain’t in Oz. This guy is the real deal, and with heart. His name is Dean Millien, a unique local artist with a penchant for folding foil. The Con Artist workshop on the Lower East Side acts as somewhat of a second home for his craft, which is often placed around the gallery space for effect. Beginning Wednesday night, however, his handmade metallic sculptures will take center stage at the new above-ground Suffolk Street location with “Curses, Foiled Again.”

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When we arrive at Con Artist, the place is in utter shambles, as any creative workspace should be.  With “Curses, Foiled Again” just a few days away, metallic sundries are strewn everywhere. We meet Millien at one of the desks littered with balled-up foil and crafted headware, the sounds of Prohibition-era Jazz wafting over the airwaves. Back in the corner, meanwhile, a scantily clad model poses for photos donning each of his one-of-a-kind creations – antlers, top-hats, jester hats, Mickey Mouse ears, etc. We want to learn more…

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As it happens, a familiar childhood nightmare became the proverbial spark which ignited Millien’s fiery passion to sculpt. He tells us candidly that his most cherished toys (Bert and Ernie) were trashed at a young age, and how a pink sponge became the unlikely replacement. One that he quickly molded into a cat. From there, he eventually graduated to aluminum foil, always of the belief that any discarded metal should “never be wasted.” Another form of recycling – turning trash into art.

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With this mantra, Millien is now selling these sculptures and even doing commission work for big companies.  A few years ago, J. Crew requested a number of figurines as part of their “Crew Cuts” kids line. Plus, he tells us that gears are in motion to possibly ink a sponsorship-type deal with Reynolds Wrap. The perfect synergy.

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Dean Millien’s solo debut “Curses, Foiled Again” opens Wednesday night at the Con Artist collective, 157 Suffolk Street.

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