contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just A Weird Kindergartner!

I learned that you should feel when writing, 
not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, 
but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten 
– happy, absorbed 
and quietly putting one bead on after another.

~Brenda Ueland

Returning to the studio after a long absence,
I found all kinds of art in process. 
Some of it was well under way and I really liked it. 

Some, well not so much. 

I also found I was a tad bored with black and white 
and wanted to try something different. 

Circling around reddish tones yet again, I began. 

Colors, brush, water, paper. 

Time to get in sync with my own weirdness. 

Stringing beads. 

Thoughts accompanied me. 

So weird, I thought. 

I’m so weird.

It was a happy weird.


I simply kept on with brush, water, color. 

Stringing those happy beads.

In the end, Brenda said it so well. 
The best of times in the studio are when 
I am a happy weird kindergartner, 
absorbed in stringing my beads 
and letting it happen as it will.

What kind of beads are you stringing in your studio?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Painting Poetry

Another Night
Leslie Avon Miller 

In response to a poem by David Whyte

Poetry is just the evidence of life.

If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.

~Leonard Cohen


Under the weight of air
her flesh forms valleys
and mountains.
Mushrooms sprout
on the surface of her skin.
A mouse sneezes in her left lung
and behind green eyes
John Henry wields his hammer.

The earth whirls
the ground tips, totters
her glasses lost, she fumbles.
In her pocket awaits a key
but where is the lock?

Her heart in its nest sings foolishly.

~Suki Poet

Last line is from Linda Gregg's poem Alma in the Dark.

In response to a poem by dawoo

Hardly Noticed Moment
Leslie Avon Miller

In response to a poem by David Whyte

i believe that poetry at its best is found rather than written. traditionally, and for many people even today, poems have been admired chiefly for their craftsmanship and musicality, the handsomeness of language and the abundance of similes, along with the patterning and rhymes. 

i respect and enjoy all that, but i would not have worked so hard and so long at my poetry if it were primarily the production of well-made objects, just as i would not have sacrificed so much for love if love were mostly about pleasure. what matters to me even more than the shapeliness and the dance of language is what the poem discovers deeper down than gracefulness and pleasures in figures of speech. i respond most to what is found out about the heart and spirit, what we can hear through the language. 

best of all, of course, is when the language and other means of poetry combine with the meaning to make us experience what we understand. we are most likely to find this union by starting with the insides of the poem rather than with its surface, with the content rather than with the packaging. 

too often in workshops and classrooms there is a concentration on the poem’s garments instead of its life’s blood. it may be that the major art in poetry is the art of finding this shining—this luminosity. it is the difference between a publishable poem and one that matters.

Linda Gregg

If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.

~David Carradine

For me, making a piece of art is about the moments of life; being aware of them and being grateful for them. My collage paintings reflect some moment that otherwise might fly by while I am thinking ahead or behind.

I experience poetry in much the same way. Poetry I read and am taken in by is often a window into the life experience of another person. I can resonate with that moment. I think that’s why I like haiku so much.

When I write a moment rather than paint it, I don’t worry about rules, or shoulds, or making something pretty. I try to capture a moment so I can look at it in contemplation.

Here is one of my poems. Although it has a sadness, it also reflects love and honoring the moment, at least in my eye.

last rites

standing beside my mother’s nursing home bed
i stroked her once strong hands
into my memory.

in a few days I would wash her hands
for the last time.

as i gently brushed soft sheer skin,
she looked down
and said “boney old bones”.

~Leslie Avon Miller

More poetry at The Poetry Center

Friday, September 9, 2011

to scratch, scribble, draw, write

Just Emerged
~Leslie Avon Miller
10x10 mixed media collage on paper

Physical Graffiti

It has been my pleasure to work with Pam Farrell over the past months as she brought together a show opening on 9.10.11 at James Oliver Gallery. The show is focused on 
collage and mixed media on paper. I am honored to have my work included.


"I became interested in collage way back in my undergrad days 
(I have a BFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers) 
while studying with Geoff Hendricks, a noted Fluxus artist, and after seeing Kurt Schwitters' work in museums.  
I decided I should put a show together of the work by artists 
who  speak the language  fluently." 
~Pam Farrell

Following is a conversation Pam and I had regarding her experience of curating the show.  Interspersed are images from artists participating in the show. 
 Putting together this show sounds similar to putting together collage – gather, consider, choose, arrange, reconsider, rearrange – there it is – the sweet spot!

When you first conceived of this show on paper, what was your objective? What did you hope to say about contemporary collage on paper?

Pam: At the moment, I feel that collage is especially present out there, and along with mm/paper, rarely gets the spotlight. My interest was piqued (or should I say re-piqued) when I participated in the Book About Death show at Emily Harvey Foundation a few years ago, and became familiar with the work of Cecil Touchon and Matthew Rose, as well as many others who contributed to the exhibit. I guess the idea for the show has been gestating since then. 

Recently, Picasso's Guitars were up at the Met, and I heard the curator speaking recently about the shock (1914?) of his use of objects in the paintings and how collage is really truly a modern art form. In terms of mm/paper, one of my heroes is Cy Twombly...the mystery, the inter-play with occult and revelation....

 (B)ramble On
48 x 60
oil on canvas 2010
Pam Farrell
What was your process of selection? Did anything about your process surprise you?

Pam: I’d been “collecting” artists in my head.... When I pitched the idea to James at James Oliver Gallery, the husband and wife team of spencer + imler were at the top of our list.

Once I started really looking around, I was a bit overwhelmed by the breadth of work on paper that I found online...the range of styles and materials. My first surprise was that this was not going to be as easy as I thought. A good challenge, to be sure. I started by making a list of artists whose work I’d seen, then started to look around online. I made a huge list—far more artists than I could possibly include—and started to contact a few at a time. When I found your blog, I felt that I’d found the motherlode!

Though this project was not meant to be historical in nature, nor to be truly representative of the media, I did want to show a range of process, techniques, and styles.

 Nee Nej

 Two Figures

What role do you see the sculpture playing in this setting?

Pam: When we discussed the show, James generously gave me free reign over the whole creative process of selection of work—a wonderful show of faith on his part for my nascent curatorial skills. The only request he had was that he would like to somehow include sculpture in the show.  I’d met David Meyer the summer before when we both showed work at LG Tripp in a group show and was immediately intrigued with his work. He employs a range of materials—from flour to books—and sometimes includes text. I found that much of his work has a sense of immediacy to it that I thought would relate in spirit to the works on paper. Susan Maguire, David’s wife, had some small 3-D pieces that encapsulate image and object in a way that I thought might serve as a bridge from the 2-D works on paper.

Eternal Egypt Series

mixed media on folded paper
8.5 x 9.75"

How do you see the works selected for this show complementing one another and coalescing into an interesting collection?

Pam: I think this is where the intuitive process comes into play. 
The idea of creating a cohesive exhibit was foremost in my mind from the start,
and I did make some selections based on size and presentation. 
But until the show is hung, 
I guess it all remains to be seen:
the viewer completes the experience.

 Air Into Breath

Susan Maguire

Crazy Compass Rose

How has your experience been different than your vision of what 
your experience would be?

Pam: I’m not sure I had any real sense of what the experience would be...
but aside from the unavailability 
of a couple of artists whose work 
I very much wanted to include, 
the process has been very smooth.

Ageless Lines

Pam, what are your plans and hopes for the final presentation in the gallery setting?

Pam: For all the work to be hung straight and level! 
That there be a flow to the exhibit, that it make “sense” to the viewer. That we’ve managed to show each artists’ work 
in the best light. That there be a relationship from one work to the next 
that evokes new thoughts and ideas, 
inspiration, a sense of discovery for the viewer. 
That the space can accommodate the amount of work that I have selected. 
And these are all the things that swirl around in my head 
when I’m trying to fall asleep.

even chance 7

How did the show title evolve and how does that “name” this collection in your opinion?

Pam: Admittedly, I’ve taken a bit of liberty with the title. 
Appearing to me in a flash—I was immersed in painting at the time, 
listening to music, (and I have no idea what was playing at the time) 
“Physical Graffiti“ just seemed right. 
Some will recognize this as the title of the fabled fifth Led Zeppelin album, 
but really there’s no direct connection to the band or its music. 
The words have a bit of a “pop” and familiarity. 
The idea of graffiti in its etymology (to scratch, scribble, draw, write) 
suggested to me a relationship to the broad range of approaches 
to mark making I was seeing in the work.


Other artists in the show include

Congratulations to all the artists in the show, 
to Pam for putting a cohesive and 
  intriguing show together 
and to the folks 
at James Oliver Gallery 
for providing this opportunity.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Night Sea Journey

Night Sea Journey

The creative act is a letting down of the net of human imagination
into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended,
and the attempt to bring out of it ideas.

It is the night sea journey, the lone fisherman on a tropical sea with his nets,
and you let these nets down - sometimes, something tears through them
that leaves them in shreds and you just row for shore,
and put your head under your bed and pray.

At other times what slips through are the minutiae,
the minnows of this ichthyological metaphor of idea chasing.

But, sometimes, you can actually bring home something that is food,
food for the human community
that we can sustain ourselves on and go forward.

~Terrance McKenna

A night sea journey, much like creating art, is a process. I go fishing time after time, casting my net and seeing what comes up. Ideas, solutions, images, metaphor...anything might be caught in the net.

I was speaking with a friend recently about the process, my process which is the way I find meaning in art making.

I am speaking of the being part of creativity…being in an emotionally open, thinking, non-thinking, spiritual space that also encompasses the physical, as in dance. This is letting down the net for the night’s fishing.

Creating is doubt coupled with knowing, but fishing anyway.

Process is being intuitive; responding to what is happening, being alert and aware, but meditative. It is experience coupled with non-judgment and curiosity. It is non-control tempered with knowledge.

It is being an open channel. It is being a tool. It is responding. It is being the net and the fisher.

Process is about stopping to look and look and ponder, sensing what my response is, and sensing what is coming up from the deep ocean well. It is exploration along the Way.

Process is dreaming the answer days after I have lain a piece aside for a while to await the new step. Process is a flash of knowing, followed again by the questions. It is knowing and not-knowing at the same time.

It is the moment.

The connection to the process is my connection to meaning. The meaning comes from within, and is the guide. Meaning and process are nourishment. They can be caught at night while fishing, or when working in the studio. 

You can click on the image to see the painting larger if you like. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

An Overdose of Satisfaction

There are some days when I think I'm going to die 
from an overdose of satisfaction. 
~Salvador Dali

There is something about creating collage on paper that I find very satisfying, more than any other substrate. Paper is friendly, tactile and receptive. It’s easy to manipulate during the process of creating a painting or collage. Paper has it’s own language.

Since I am the creator of the painting 
and the first real 'viewer' – 
when I feel satisfied, 
I put the brushes down and hope 
that someone else will feel satisfied too. 
~David Lussier

Presentation of art is important to me. I feel my work is enhanced by a simple, clean surrounding that allows the viewers eye to make the journey through the piece in a leisurely manner. 

Each piece is unique and takes its own time to be realized. 
I am not concerned with the quantity, but only that they
communicate my understanding of life and my craft at that particular time. 
~Sharon Knettell

When we started building the studio/wood working shop building, about 5 years ago, I was certain I needed a mat cutter so I could frame my works on paper. A local frame shop was going out of business, and I had been gifted a coupon from Kurt for a mat cutter once we decided which one to get. As luck would have it, the mat cutter was available when we got to the shop. We also obtained the wall mounted cutter for cutting glass and making straight cuts on anything from large paper to mat board. I use it often. 

The only person you have to please, 
with your art, is yourself. 
~Don Getz

For a time while the building project continued the cutters were stored where they would fit; awaiting the day they could be moved to the studio and put into use. We moved the cutters to the studio awhile ago, but this weekend we began to cut mats. 

You learn the essential skills, 
how to manipulate the brush and how to handle paint, 
and you study the works of artists you admire. After a while, though, 
you have to be yourself. 
That's scary, but satisfying. 
~T. M. Nicholas

I thought I would cut the mats, but Kurt, wood worker that he is, could not resist trying out the new equipment. My turn will come. We thought we would start framing up a few things for ourselves as practice. We laughingly set out to challenge ourselves to find out how many ways there are to make mat cutting errors. And we have found several!

The painter goes through states of fullness and evaluation. 
That is the whole secret of art. 
~Pablo Picasso

I have a real sense of satisfaction seeing the works set off by nice clean mats. We have some frames on order and once they arrive, we will compete the presentation. 

I love an art which allows me to 
document my place in this mix... 
This is my past and my future. 
It has its own logic and finally, 
its own sense of fulfillment. 
~Burton Silverman

I hope you all found satisfaction this weekend too.