Now Featuring Amelia Midori Miller
Painter Amelia Midori Miller strips painting to some of its most matter of fact elements, layers, color, fields and line. But her simplification lays bare the process of discovery that each painting holds for Miller, and in turn for us, as we puzzle through hidden clues and obscured information, piecing together a sense of material process from the evidence in a picture.
MH: Your paintings are quite abstract, in that there’s rarely anything representational to pin down. However, from time to time, surprising textures and configurations seem to gel, like in the painting Ladder, and a concrete object seems to come halfway into sight. I understand that observation and source material continue to be important for you as you’ve moved from figurative painting to your current body of work. Can you talk about how they function for you?
AMM: Instead of capturing the moment as in figurative painting or photography, my paintings today capture the moment in painting. It is a representation of my intuitive process that allows the painting to develop subconsciously. The root of this series is the idea of obstructed views. I have only lived in metropolitan areas (Tokyo and New York) and one of the things that’s common with all cities is how your views get interrupted by the surrounding architecture. You never see the entirety of anything. Everything gets cut off, intersected, obscured, and that’s how I approach my paintings.
MH: And backing up a bit, how did the evolution of your current body of work come about?
AMM: My move from figurative to non-representational work occurred in graduate school. Critiquing figurative works almost always focuses on the specific narrative. But the truth is, I hated discussing the narrative and I am not a storyteller. I love how open abstract painting is, and it’s much easier to start a new painting. I love not knowing or even having a vision of the finished painting.
MH: Your paintings often contain hidden and obscure details and it looks like you use layering to achieve this effect of hidden information. I’m curious what your physical studio process, as well as thought process, are in the process of making a painting and developing these layers.
AMM: I start with a form or a pattern from photographs or rough sketches and subsequent layers are worked on. There is a general formula of patterning, concealing, and adjusting. Because of the drying time of oil paint, the layers are done on different days. I definitely think of them as Photoshop layers since they are so separate to me. The layers are usually applied differently, from taping to spraying to gestural painting.
MH: What’s your thinking behind your palette? I see cycles of certain colors emerging and receding over time and I’m curious about what your relationship with color is.
AMM: My palette is dictated by my current state of mind. Each individual painting is like a “character” that I create from scratch with different “personalities,” ranging from whimsical to somber to restrained. When I first began this body of work, the color combinations were very subtle, which slowed down the reading. Now, I am playing more with high-contrast and bold color choices but still with a slow read—this time with the intersecting layers and linear shapes, and not with the subtle tonal shifts.
MH: How did you get into painting in the first place? Who inspired you then and who are you excited about now?
AMM: I always wanted to be a painter, since as early as I was six years old, and never considered anything outside of the creative/artistic field. The painters that have influenced me recently include Charline Von Heyl, for her daring individuality in each painting, and Thomas Scheibitz, especially for the unexpected slices of color between shapes that are hidden until closer inspection. I admire Zak Prekop and his simplified and precise layered execution. I shared the experience of going to both undergraduate and graduate school with my boyfriend, Augustus Nazzaro, and inevitably, he is one my biggest influences. I boycotted the use of the color black for many years, until very recently when I yearned for the boldness of black. His minimalistic approach has definitely trickled into my work.
MH: What’s your titling process like? Some of your titles really speak to something that seems to be there pictorially (Wet Window, for example) and others are much more abstract. How do painting and language relate to you?
AMM: I don’t start thinking about the title until I’m completely finished with the painting, but when I do it’s quick and intuitive. The title is a hint into my interpretation of the painting. A lot of times I think of the general form and what it personally reminds me of. For example, WWIII comes from the idea of planning a war on a map, and Sandy was painted during the hurricane and was inspired by the debris left behind.
MH: What are some of the challenges you’re looking to tackle, or projects that you dream of but haven’t gotten around to yet?
AMM: I have been working at 52” high x 38” wide for a little while now and I would love to keep on expanding on it and have an extensive series of work the same size and exhibit them all together. I’ve never worked continuously with the same dimensions and it’s exciting because I have this set goal and every reference material I find fits this mold. This way there is no hierarchy to the sizes and I approach each canvas equally—each painting is in and of itself.