Thursday, April 15, 2010

Naughty Bits - Terri Miller

I was taking inventory in my supply closet the other day and came across three rolled up canvasses. It was a triptych, removed from its support stretchers, that I had completed nearly 30 years ago. When I unrolled it, I was transported to my college days at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

For all of senior year, the Fine Art majors were given studio space. We took over several floors of a loft building at 22nd Street and 2nd Ave. Dividers made of plywood, salvaged doors, cabinets and curtains divvied up the space into small rooms that we shared between 2-3 people. Artists walked freely throughout the space. It was communal, bohemian, and for many of us, it was the first time we had the opportunity to create in a space larger than the corner of a bedroom. After three years of dragging art supplies to a variety of classrooms in 4 separate buildings, our instructors came to us, so we were able to work on pieces that were more complex and less portable.

It was New York, and it was the early ’80’s, and no one in that school wanted to see a painting of a horse. While I was already selling commissioned equine portraits, I was always reminded to try something else, to go a step further, in my work at the School. And so I did, in my own way. I chose to do super-sized still lifes of the objects from my horse world: shiny, colorful ribbons and reflective bits and trophies. If you look through my still life galleries, you’ll see that some of these subjects still appeal to me!

This painting, which I dubbed “Naughty Bits” (yes, we were all Monty Python fans at the time), was my final project, and it filled up my entire workspace. It is a triptych, each panel of which is 3′x6′, making up a painting that is a massive 6 feet high by 9 feet wide. I’ve spliced in a photo of myself next to in so you can see how big it is!

Looking at it now, from the perspective of 30 years, I can see what was, and what was to come. I’ve always loved to paint the passionate chaos of silk, and the cool mirroring metal of bits. I can discern the brush marks that would evolve into my present way of covering the canvas. There are the subdued tones that came from striving to avoid what my instructors called “being too decorative”, and the bright, true color that was struggling to come forward.

Terri Miller

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