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Image: Gabriel J. Shuldiner

Studio Visit with Anthony Miler

Anthony Miler Artist Statement: “words in backwards out come thoughts sometimes”

Natalie:  Anthony where are you from?

Anthony: I was born in Toledo, Ohio, a small industrial city, and I lived there until I was probably five years old when my mother and I moved to a little town called Adrian, in south Michigan.

Natalie: And when did you come to NY?

Anthony: I came to New York 8 years ago for graduate school. I realized when I studied abroad in London how open with possibility a big city, so I needed to get to New York as soon as possible.

Natalie: Did you go to an art school, and did you go to school to become an artist?

Anthony: Ok, I did go to art school. Undergraduate was a liberal art school focusing on many disciplines, not specifically art, but they did have a good art program, For graduate school I went to City College of new York, one of the CUNY schools. It was an MFA in painting.

Natalie: Was there any point in your life that you realized “I wanna be an artist”, and if yes, when was that, can you tell me a little bit about that?

Anthony: I’m not sure if there was a decision that was made, When I was a kid I was always drawing because that was available for free –I grew up as an only child and my mom had to work a lot so I just drew. My grandmother would bring stacks of paper home from the factory  she worked in, they were lined on one side and blank on the other. This was the time I was learning to write in school but I never wanted to do that, I just flipped the lined paper over and drew on the blank back. Because I was good at rendering kids in school would say “Oh, you should be an artist” and I did not know what that meant, I didn’t know that was a possibility, I didn’t know that existed. I had no idea what they were talking about. 

Natalie: What was the first museum you’ve ever went to?

Anthony: The Toledo Museum of Art. They have a pretty decent collection.

Natalie: What is your earliest recollection of a piece of art? I mean, for me, growing up in Texas, I think my earliest recollection probably was the Mona Lisa. Can you remember a significant piece as a young child?

Anthony: I guess not, it’s confusing because I’ve got memory all wrapped up with current ideas about art. What I was attracted to when I was young was comics and I would say that’s an art form that was early on for me. But, a piece of art, I don’t have any memory. I’m actually satisfied not having any early memory of art.

Natalie: In your studio, it looks like you have mockups of puppets made out of cardboard, you work on paper, you work on canvas, and you use a lot of different media. Could you define your style? Would you call it abstract, new abstract, post abstract, would you have a definition for the style of art that you do?

Anthony: I shy away from trying to define too much of what I'm doing with language. It's not born in language, and besides that's someone else's value to add. I do relate to historical groups, a main one being COBRA. That group of artists speak to me a lot. I also think about Art Brut, and if i have to entertain the idea of a term, maybe I like an idea of Neo-Brut. I feel like we're reaching a moment of being ripe for this type of work again. It’s the opposite of all of these industrial production values, surface shine, and dehumanizing algorithms. I can't help but notice that the museum of Art Fort Lauderdale currently has a COBRA exhibition running. It's exciting to see the seeds of this raw kind of work coming around again, especially in the states.

Natalie: Anthony, can you take us through the process of conception to fully realizing the art piece?

Anthony: Well, the process is very organic, there is often not a study, although sometimes there is, and there is not really a recipe that makes me decide whether or not to use a study or to make studies beforehand. Mainly there isn’t a set system, but the imagery that’s generated still exists in the same family, and it's a drawing heavy process. I use a wide range of media. From traditional media that’s used in non-traditional ways, or non-traditional media that’s forced into traditional applications, and any mix of these. And so sometimes there will be nice oil paint on top of which I’ve used, industrial markers, sort of defiling the paint, and then often on a canvas painting there will be paper collaged in and then painted over again. It's organic so its freeing, and more about discovery. I do consider it all to be painting.

Natalie: Most of your works to me look like portraits. Is there a reason for that?

Anthony: When there is a face and an expression it's a quick and strong way to get a visceral dialogue. And it's not tied to artifice or something that’s academic or disconnectedly conceptual. It’s very psychological and emotive, it looks back at you. 

Natalie: And how quickly do you draw your pieces, like the nine black and whites that are hanging in your studio now? How quickly do you draw each one of them, is it something that happens quickly or is it something that you think about?  

Anthony: It’s hard to say because they came out of many similar drawings in order to build into these nine, but now, these take one sheet of paper, one piece of charcoal, that’s pretty much the equasion. It sort of melts pretty quickly, so one piece is used per drawing, and probably in between five or ten minutes. But then what happens besides the physical act of drawing is some may be deemed finished after hanging out for a while, some will end up as fodder on the floor possibly to be reworked later. Sometimes it takes many months to decide something is complete when it was actually done in a few minutes. Because it takes a lot of time to clear your head of your own prejudices and expectations to realize something’s already operating quite effectively. Speed is important in another way, in drawing these the faces of these nine the smile goes directly into the eyes, so there's an economy of means, an economy of line. 

Natalie: I interview a lot of young artists, a lot of established artists, and I find it interesting, we spoke a little bit about it, about the whole gallery scene and being represented by gallery or not being represented by gallery. I find it more and more that young artists are not seeking gallery representation. Do you think the gallery still plays an important role in the artists career?

Anthony: I do, I think that every artist has a group of galleries they would like to show at and that they think are appropriate for their work, and the people that show there are what they consider their peers and they want to be associated with that group and want to be presented in that context. I feel like I am 100% a painter and I feel like I am adding to the long conversation of painting. And there are some galleries that show a certain type of painting that are a similar family to mine, and I think that, yes, being associated with those galleries would be great, and would be immensely helpful in presenting and contextualizing my work. But at the same time, I do think young artists are trying to show around a lot because that’s where they’re building their audience. If they get locked in somewhere early, other places aren’t as likely to show them, because then it's about sharing money or something  like that. That's my impression anyway.

Natalie: You live and work in your studio, it is live-work space, so is it hard to be disciplined to be an artist, cause I know if I worked and lived in my space I’d probably wanna watch TV and drink coffee all day long. My question is, do you spend a lot of time creating or is it something that you have to force yourself to do?

Anthony: It is not something I have to force myself to do, I have to force myself to do the other things, to remember to pay my bills, to get out in the fresh air, to go to openings, to look up things that people tell me I should look up... I lived in situations where my studio was separate and I would still always be at the studio, there was an inconvenience in travelling there. And I knew that for me, this would allow me to be as obsessive as I want to be.

Natalie: Spoken like the true artist! Do you prefer working on paper, on canvas, on cardboard, do you have a preference?

Anthony: I don’t have a strict preference, I work on paper most often because I can buy hundreds of sheets at a time and it's always ready to go. I'd like to work on canvas more but its costly in many ways. When ever I scale up I prefer canvas. And these days I'm more often inclined to paint larger. 

Natalie: I like to ask some silly questions too. One of them is: what is currently on your iPod playlist?

Anthony: Oh, it’s not a silly question, it’s John Maus. I am obsessively listening to John Maus, and I have been for probably almost a year. Usually it’s more of a variety.

Natalie: And what do you think about the city bikes?

Anthony: I don’t have an opinion about them actually. I don’t care, you know, it’s like how I approach news, I just can't care.

Natalie: If you could collaborate with a living artist, who would it be?

Anthony: I feel like it would be most interesting to collaborate with someone who wasn’t working in the same media as I am, so we could each have something distinct that we’re bringing that would force the project to have its own life. Maybe some type of designer or an architect. I'm not entirely sure what my work looks like to an outside observer, but for me there is a concise and deep cutting politics behind it, and one thing that has been a fantasy of mine in the past is making work specifically for a place. Look at José Clemente Orozco. Look at the UN, or courtrooms where laws are made. I don't exactly trust that these places are more functional than theatrical, but at least they are theatrically functional. -(smiling)-

Natalie: Beautiful! You are so interesting, and your work is incredible. I love it, I’m a huge fan. If somebody were reading this interview and wanted to set up a studio visit or possibly purchase something, what would be the best way to get a hold of you?

Anthony:  www.anthonymiler.blogspot.com

 

Natalie Kates:  What are some of your upcoming projects?

 

Anthony Miler: Currently I'm in an interesting group show at Ziehersmith Gallery in New York titled ‘Hope Despite The Times’. It's a sharply curated yet eclectic show, bringing together well respected painter Katherine Bradford, with myself an emerging painter. And a wider polemic of a pair: Bulgarian artist Mina Minov from one side of the globe doing performative sculpture, all the way to a man in California who was making semi-pornographic drawings while in prison in the ’90’s. So yeah, a wide pool, but a focused vision.

 

I also just participated in Art Basel Miami Beach where my work was exhibited by Waterhouse & Dodd at PULSE Miami. The work was really well received there and it looks like a few new projects may come out of it. Also in process is an interview with Istanbul art magazine Sanat Dünyamız, which I'm quite excited about it as it looks like it's going to be a pretty sizable introduction. Finally I'll be heading to Philadelphia in early January for a show I'm included in at Space 1026 titled "Deep Fun," curated by Austin English.  So, moderately busy for the moment I guess, also working on a project for March that I can't speak the details of yet but definitely can be on the radar for anyone looking to see a show in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Natalie: Then my last question would be, what are some words you would use to describe your works?

Anthony: I guess, in a denotative way, just stating what’s there, it’s aggressive and visceral painting, and used aggressive mark-making, and it’s drawing heavy. It’s very organic and human. It's loose and engages the entire body. 

In a more connotative sense, something that’s more subjective, the work is very emotive and psychological, and that’s something I enjoy about it and drives me to continue to pursue it. These things have grown over the years in this visual language and will probably simply continue its organic life.

Natalie: Beautiful, thank you!