Artist Brian Miller Leans into Pop and Color, for Now

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

Like many artists, Brian Miller’s parents weren’t thrilled when their child expressed an interest in art. So, after taking some art courses at a community college in Oregon, where he’s from, Miller kept art in his back pocket. “I ended up in retail for a while, then eventually got into picture framing,” he says, “but I always kept playing around with art because I knew I wanted to be an artist.” 

His framing job got him face time with gallery owners all over Portland, Oregon, and, after years, he finally decided to broach the subject of his art with a gallery owner with whom he had a great working relationship. “I brought in a bunch of my stuff and put it up against the wall,” he says, “and I was just hoping for some pointers.” He signed with the gallery that afternoon and has never looked back. “It turned out to be the best career move I’ve ever made,” says Miller.

A Sarasota resident since 1998, Miller reflects on his path to art and how it shaped him. “I think that since I don’t really have any formal training, I’m not hemmed in by what ‘not’ to do,” he says. That means no medium or aesthetic is off limits. His early work was in cast paper and paper sculpture. Later, he developed a mastery of epoxy resins, creating round sculptures that look like cross-sections of naturally occurring geodes. His paintings explore both nonrepresentational and representational styles, with flowers, fish, and lots of earth-toned colors giving his work a clear focus on nature. But his Gravity series takes color and craft to a whole new level.

The series sees Miller dig his heels into the thing he loves most of all. “I love playing with the way colors interact,” he says. Miller also found his way into pop iconography as he has “finally,” he admits, discovered the way in which smart devices frame our experience of the world. The intersection of those two elements is a series of acrylic drip paintings finished with an epoxy resin glaze. In the series, Miller worked on a technique in which he drips precise stripes of paint down a canvas. The subjects of the pieces—a silhouette of the Statue of David, the word “LOVE,” a simple heart—offer the viewer something obvious to sink their teeth into, while the bright colors mesmerize and explode. 

“It’s incredibly difficult to do,” says Miller, “I have to have a perfectly smooth canvas oriented perfectly perpendicular to the ground and the paint consistency has to be just right so that it runs in a straight line when it drips.” The clear epoxy resin finish then gives the work an added prism of play, with light reflecting and refracting off the glossy resin surface to create slightly new experiences based on the angle it's viewed from.

It’s easy to imagine the series on t-shirts, desktop backgrounds, postcards or posters—and many admirers have suggested as much—but for Miller, the foray into popular imagery and a rainbow spectrum of colors has been a joyful pitstop. “Eventually I’ll feel like I’ve exhausted a concept and move on,” he says, “so I’ve always got some weird project on the side.”

The Gravity series can be viewed at State of the Arts Gallery both online and in-person at State of the Arts, 1525 State St., Sarasota. 

Photo courtesy of the artist.

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