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ARTIST PROFILE: Janet Millstein opens ‘Imagined Reflections’ at LPCA

June 14, 2019
By STEVE LESTER - Correspondent ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID-Area residents may observe a blending of historical and modern-day images in a one-woman art show of montages titled "Imagined Reflections" by Janet Millstein, which opens between 5 and 7 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and runs through July 28.

Millstein said she spent nine months digging through images from the files of the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society of area residents and places that date back to the late 19th century.

"It was like having a third child," she said.

Article Photos

Janet Millstein
(Photo provided)

Given the diversity of feelings and impressions she got from each image she researched for this project, she said, "Every image spoke to me in a different way."

Some of them display scenes of mirth such as ice skaters jumping over barrels while others may reflect a certain darkness based on the expressions in the eyes of the subjects. Many of them come from a collection of glass plate negatives taken by Irving Lynn Stedman and Chester Davis Moses, two photographers who chronicled life in Lake Placid roughly between 1898 and 1940.

What has become known as the Stedman and Moses Collection of Glass Plate Negatives would have found its way to the village dump in 1977 had it not been for Dr. George Hart, who noticed some workmen loading wooden crates onto a truck at the Lake Placid Club one day. After examining the crates and realizing what they contained, he asked the men to hold off for a bit. In time, the crates found their way instead to the historical society where the contents remain to this day.

Millstein combines historical images like the ones from this collection with her own photography to produce 38 multi-media pieces that all tell a different story, one that the observer can interpret for himself.

Born in Glen Cove, Long Island, Millstein quickly developed an affinity for art from watching her mother draw and paint.

"We had lots of crayons and pastels lying around the house," she said.

One time she took a large book of children's rhymes and added her own coloring to some of the illustrations. When her mother discovered what she had done, she reacted by praising rather than scolding her.

"She thought I'd done a really nice job," she said.

Millstein therefore kept on drawing and painting to the point where it seemed like a perfectly natural activity.

"All these things felt natural to me, and the teachers were always encouraging me," she said.

By the time she was 14, her parents decided she showed enough promise to deserve some serious art training, so they let her ride the train to Manhattan and take classes at the Art Students League of New York on West 57th Street with a friend the same age.

As anybody who has taken drawing classes knows all too well, nude models are a staple of life.

"There my friend and I were, just 14 years old. And, of course, the first model we had to draw was a male," she said.

The instructor experimented with ways to make the model look more demure, but in the end they gave up and just let him pose up there au natural, she said.

Millstein attended classes there until she was 18 and described the experience as "a make it or break it time. And I rose to the occasion. Everyone there takes everyone seriously. So at 14, they took me and my friend seriously, too. And that was great."

From there, Millstein enrolled in Parsons School of Design, a private art and design college in Greenwich Village known colloquially as just "Parsons."

"Everybody on the faculty there had to be a working artist," she said. "It was all about developing your mind and exploring ideas."

After all that art training in Manhattan, Millstein's life took a surprise turn.

"I went to Ithaca and ran a really cool little clothing store. I was there for two years and really loved it," she said.

But the big city must have beckoned because she returned to work as an intern at CBS, where she was hired and paid after six months. Her work involved using her art skills for promotional purposes such as brochures, mechanicals and paste-ups. Once she even had to make a giant cutout of Bruce Springsteen.

Other giants of the corporate world such as McGraw-Hill Education soon noticed the quality of her work and offered to lure her away from CBS. Between all her freelance projects combined with all the large corporations around Rockefeller Center competing for her talents, to say she didn't have to go out looking for work was an understatement at best.

"I was very fortunate, but I'd worked hard for it. It was a good time," she said.

Things began to change, however, in 1992 with the birth of her daughter. Millstein said she thought she could return to work and yet perform a certain amount of her professional duties from home, but the corporate executives insisted she come in to the office every day and work from there instead.

Millstein said she had more than enough female clients who sympathized with her situation, so she walked away from the corporate world and took many of her clients - along with her associate creative director - with her and started her own company.

Her son was born three years later, so by that time she was all in with parenting.

"I felt like they were my creative projects," she said. "And it was so much fun."

By the time her kids were ages 5 and 8, she re-entered the corporate world, "but at a much slower pace just to keep my fingers in it," she said.

Millstein's show at the LPCA was the brainchild of John Donk, the director at the art center's Gallery 46 on Main Street.

"John had a concept to do a show that connected with the local populace and the historical society," she said. "So I spent nine months of letting these images talk to me and try to tell me a story. I was surprised by the direction some of these pieces went. I hope I do them all justice."



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