Mitch Miller of Norman had survived an avalanche in Colorado and
a year of seeing horrible events in Nepal and Tibet before arriving
in New York late in 2000 as a young artist with $2,000 in his pocket
and dreams of making it big. If he could make it here, he could make
it anywhere, or so the song goes.
He had graduated from the University of Colorado with an unusual
degree in fine arts and biology and from the University of Kansas
with a fine arts master's degree in painting and sculpture. He also
had learned skills in crafts such as woodwork, welding, fabrication
and working with resin. A friend from his days in Boulder, Colo.,
was opening a gallery called Weebeastie in Brooklyn and had asked
Miller to direct it.
We set up the gallery with movable walls so we could live and
work in the same place, said Miller. I had all of my work from shows
I had entered in places like Norman, Oklahoma City, Lawton, Dallas,
Lawrence and Brooklyn. One night in February 2001, we rode our bikes
into Manhattan and got lost.
We were coming back at dawn when we saw our building in flames. I
lost everything, including all my work and the data I had collected.
On top of that, I called my girlfriend to tell her about the fire,
and she broke up with me.
Despite that devastating night, Mitch Miller, now 31, is back on
the road toward making it in New York with a new studio in Brooklyn
and an unusual body of work that recalls his experiences and
memories as the son of a geologist and a successful doctor in
Oklahoma. His sculptures and paintings display how human industry
and nature actually find ways to blend together despite what seems
to be a constant conflict.
His sculptures include about 65 metal, wood, plastic and paper
oil and gas rigs about four feet tall. He also built a 30-foot
wooden rig, which recently was displayed in a Field, Science,
Technology and Nature show at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long
Island City, N.Y. His paintings feature bright orange and red
Oklahoma sunsets, animals, birds and insects mixed with the
mathematically designed steel structures of drilling rigs. They were
expected to be shown by a curator of the White Columns Gallery at a
site to be determined.
I want to show how industry uses nature and how nature eventually
adapts over the long run, said Miller. That's why I show monkeys,
insects and birds enjoying themselves while they climb on the
machinery and structures of rigs. I also show the potential
evolvement of birds adapting with legs or heads that look like parts
of rigs and drilling equipment. I believe that nature actually will
outlast humans and their industry, because nature eventually finds
ways to adapt to any environment.
This concept is displayed vividly in a drawing of the geological
strata under an oil rig. It is 30 feet long and three feet wide, and
it also was displayed at White Columns. The painting shows the pipe
from an oil rig extending down through various kinds of rock and
soil, the ruins of an ancient civilization, the remains of dinosaurs
and eventually to sands that include oil. It even includes the
explosion of pressure at the bottom of the pipe, allowing oil to
rise to the surface for use by humans.
It seems to me that some major Oklahoma energy firms would jump
at the chance to sponsor a show by Miller, but how has his work been
received in New York?
Well, 35,000 people a year visit Socrates Sculpture Park, which
is run by the renowned artist Mark DiSuvero, and that led to his
acceptance by White Columns. Miller also has been invited to show
his work in a traveling show of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in
Beijing, China, and Sydney Australia, plus shows in San Francisco.
Beyond that, he will display his work in a solo show called Puzzling
Situation at the Carnegie Art Center in Buffalo with a New York
State Council of Arts grant. …