Mia Halton

Halton grew up in a family of artists, including her maternal grandparents and mother. She remembers her early art —making as both  a  refuge  and  a  way  to  make  sense  of  the  emotional vagaries of family life. During Halton’s years as an undergraduate, she encountered the work of Jean Dubuffet. He was a seminal discovery for her, for his ability to access the dark side of inner life, and direct use of raw materiality. Other painters important to Halton’s development include Jackson Pollock, for his intuitive layering of paint in over-all compositions, and Philip Guston for his bold drawing and existential examination of self.  

Color has played a crucial role in Halton’s work, moving from the pastel colors of her graduate student, to the darker palette of her postschool years, to her present use of jewel-like hues, often contrasting with fields of white. From the beginning the role of figures was central, ranging from cartoon-like, graphic images to more gestural forms. It is the pictorial space between the figures and forms that has continually evolved in Halton’s work.  

Her recent body of work displays a growing vocabulary of mark-making, a refinement of technique and a deepening psychological engagement. In 2013, a family tragedy precipitated her beginning to use clay. The physicality of the material allowed Halton to explore her emotions while also opening up to new ways of looking at the larger social issues brought up by the tragic event. 

She has shown extensively at the Orange County Museum of Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, Clayworks in Baltimore, OK Harris Works of Art, New York, Gallery K, Washington, D.C., Malton Gallery, Cleveland and Gomez Gallery, Baltimore. Halton’s work is in the collections of the U.S. State Department and Kenyon College, and numerous private collections. 

She was recently awarded the A.I.R. Vallauris in France, a solo exhibition at Stevenson University and will be a 2018 NAEA National Convention presenter.


Using humor and metaphor, I visually describe the vagaries and challenges of being human. I work quickly and with a sense of urgency. When I draw onto paper or scratch into clay I’m trying to make sense of the world, one figure at a time. They’re symbolic, players in a larger story. I use a cartoon-like style, reminiscent of children’s drawings. I don’t use a horizon line, specific light source, or other indication of time or place. The figures inhabit their own world and follow their own rules.

I’m an observer of human behavior. What drives us? What makes us tick? What happens during the all-important encounters that continually occur? How can I, using tangible materials and literal images, describe what can’t be seen? The figures are important but it’s what’s happening between them that I’m after. The “Shouting Sticks”, for example, have recently been used by a group of angry protestors who have put them down hurriedly after the march has ended.

Topics that resonate for me personally, and at the same time open up new ways of looking at social issues, are rich with potential. I begin with a large, compelling idea: “Women”, for example. I develop and research questions, investigating facets of the topic until I find a way in. I address questions such as, “Why do women not contest male sovereignty?” Choices of materials are determined largely by the ideas being expressed.

I’m looking for the power of numbers when I create large populations of sculptural or drawn figures. The sculptures that appear in the installation, “Pushovers Unite", based loosely on the old clown toy that comes right back up after being punched, are uniting in solidarity against oppressive forces and regimes. The hundreds of small faces in the “Encounters” installation are intended to show the significant similarities between us while at the same time, suggest the profound differences that, when addressed, can either unite or divide us.