Nina Miller They are simply artists. All of life will be open to them.
By Mary Truong October 1st, 2020
Nina Miller works with multiple media, creating paintings, sculptures and installation. She tends to avoid labeling herself more specifically than “an artist”; taking the moniker of “a painter” or “a sculptor” feels too confining and limiting for her. As simply “an artist,” she can detach herself from the art canon and instead focus on experience: the experiences that give rise to a work, her own feelings and intuitions as she makes, and the effects that her work has on viewers.
For Miller, the combination of memories and moments that might result in an artwork is difficult to articulate. She often refers to childhood and nostalgia as core themes within her work, but she then gives prosaic anecdotes about unremarkable objects as inspiration. Inspiration may come from a walk in the city, in how wood is stacked at a construction site, or perhaps the way an abandoned lollipop leans against a fence. In one sculptural piece, she collected ordinary items from the street and her studio and built a shelf-life structure to contain them, arranging the objects with a kind of preciousness. This kind of fascination with objects in the world reoccurs in her practice; she seems to examine objects with a childlike curiosity and wonder.
Miller’s environment often influences her work. During her undergrad, where she was surrounded by the grid structure of a city, she found herself attracted to “arrangements,” often within some sort of containing structure, echoing urban organization. Nowadays, she has moved to the forests of Utah, and she is considering incorporating more natural elements into her artworks. She says she wants to go beyond the square of a canvas or the regulated 2x4 of wood and instead is looking towards organic forms like tree stumps.
“There’s a balance between reflecting and letting the work just be and sit.”
The process of making art tends to be intuitive for Miller; she likens it to a child making art. Just as a child might reach out for a certain crayon through gut instinct, she reaches out for certain colors of paints. Through her art education, she has learned to question initial impulses, but she finds that there must be a balance between deliberation and intuition. With too much reflection, making art becomes unenjoyable. Without it, the work becomes ineffable and inscrutable.
“I want to teleport them to another space.”
When Miller describes the sort of reaction that she wishes a viewer of her work to have, she punctuates it with marvel. She says she wishes for her audience “to be excited” and “to have an experience,” saying something like, “wow, that was so small and detailed! Or, wow, that was so big!” She mentions that she would like her viewers to consider their scale in how they relate to the world; being large or small compared to her art objects. This attitude connects back to her own personal curiosity with exploring her environment.
To Miller, the world is ripe with experience, and she acts as an embodiment of Allan Kaprow’s writing from decades ago, “Young artists today need no longer say, ‘I am a painter’ or ‘a poet’ or ‘a dancer.’ They are simply artists. All of life will be open to them.”
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