A Q&A with artist Amelia Midori Miller:
Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, to a Japanese mother and an American father. I moved to NYC 9 years ago to attend the School of Visual Arts for my BFA and MFA in Fine Arts. Since graduating this past May, I have leased a studio with two of my classmates in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and moved to Ridgewood, Queens, which is right nearby the studio.
How has your time spent in Tokyo, New York, and Germany influenced your art? Specifically your residency at Emmerich am Rhein, Germany?
The fact that I have only lived in densely populated, urban cities definitely influenced my current body of work. A term I think about a lot is “obstruction,” where at any given point in the city, there’s always something blocking my view. I think of fences, barricades, windows, architecture, etc.
Right after I graduated with a BFA in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts, the Chair of the department nominated me to attend a residency in Emmerich am Rhein, Germany. The studio spaces were located in the basement of a beautiful modern poster art museum, and we had an exhibition upstairs after the residency. The participants were either recent alumni or faculty members of schools that were affiliated with the AIAS (International Association of Independent Art and Design Schools). It was my first experience where young emerging artists and older more established artists worked together as colleagues. I befriended a Dutch artist, Erik Mattijssen, whom I visited in Amsterdam a few years ago.
You have exhibited your work around the world. Do perceptions and responses to your work vary greatly from country to country?
I think that my work speaks to a universal audience. I do not make specific cultural references. Rather, I focus on formal issues such as light and space through composition and form. I invite the opportunity for people to bring their own personal experiences into the paintings.
You’ve mentioned that you took three years off from your studies after moving to New York and worked for artists while making your own work. How did this time impact your career and what sort of experiences did you gain from it?
The three years I took off was significant in my development as an artist. It was the only time I ever had off from the academic environment. It tested me in a different way than college, since this time around I had no guidelines and had to motivate myself in my own space. Working for artists every day was a constant reminder of the career that I chose- that it requires strong personal drive and good work ethic, as well as the balancing of business, social and creative aspects.
Many of your works are quite geometric and abstract. How planned or spontaneous is your process?
My earlier works were heavily grounded in representation and photography, where I would plan most things in advance. In graduate school, my process gradually became more intuitive and abstracted. I still look at images when I paint as a source of inspiration and work from there. I see my paintings as being quite suggestive. I reference specific elements in organic and artificially augmented landscapes. I prefer not to use the term “abstract” as a noun because it seems so finite. I like to use it as a verb since my paintings are still in the process of unraveling.
Who are your favorite artists?
Charline von Heyl, who I actually had the honor of having a studio visit with through the Visiting Artists program at SVA. I admire her tenacity and freedom. I have a lot to learn from her. Both Giotto’s and Hiroshige’s use of unorthodox perspective and space is something I have looked at constantly.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I love to cook, specifically baking. There absolutely is a large overlap between the culinary arts and painting. They both use the same basic rules- composition, weight, color and texture. The geometry involved in the latticework of a piecrust is the same vocabulary that I use in the abstracted forms in my paintings. The satisfaction I get when I open the oven door is tantamount to the moment I know when a painting is complete.