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Working Process and Press

Two PDFs documenting how my paintings are made, as as well as reviews and articles written about my work.

INSTALLATION VIEWS

Photos of my paintings installed:

Enduring, CONNERSMITH, Washington DC, April - May, 2014

(e)merge Art Fair, Washington DC, October 2014

The Fancy of Babes, Conner Contemporary Art, Washington DC, September 2011

Pop Stars! Popular Culture and Contemporary Art, 21C Museum Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2015

Undergraduate Paintings and Pastels

"Pictures of children are at once the most common, the most sacred, and the most controversial images of our time" - Ann Higonnet (Pictures of Innocence. Thames and Hudson:1998)

Simultaneous contradictions - qualities which seem to be opposite yet somehow coexist - draw me to the imagery of childhood. I am interested in combined feelings of discomfort and familiarity, and in how a picture of a child can be both utterly mundane and disturbingly surreal. What happens when presumed innocence is twisted with a willful sense of knowing, or when the provocateur and the victim are the same? How can a child be both unnervingly creepy and hauntingly beautiful at the same time?

Readings in science and history have influenced my work. For the past few years, I've been particularly fascinated by the history of childhood as a concept, and how today, childhood seems to be in a perpetual state of redefinition with influences from the media, technology, and globalization.

- Katie Miller 2007

Newborns

Newborns are full of contradictions. Grotesque, peeling, bruised and jaundiced flesh covers each tiny, precious body. Writhing, wrinkly, and ridiculously proportioned, the neonate inhabits an odd time before the cuteness of babyhood. He appears to be an alien amalgam incorporating elements of the human fetus, the gawky adolescent, and the frail elderly, yet we adults are wired to find him appealing. The newborn seems far too odd to be one of us, but it is the way we all began.

- Katie Miller 2009

The Fancy of Babes - narrative paintings, pacifiers, and sexualized animal fetuses

Essay by critic and curator Dominique Nahas:
written for catalog accompanying my 2011 MFA thesis exhibit

Katie Miller’s paintings in her exhibition InFancy consist of Little Boy Blue and His Comely Cremello (2011), Tiny Miss Diva’s Puppy Style (2011), Equus ferus cabalus Lascivus (2010), Macaca silenus Libidinosus (2010), and Rattus norvegicus Voluptarius (2010). These images attract us and repel us equally. This double movement is due in large part to the artist’s fastidious painterly style that demands close viewing as well as from afar.

Miller, fascinated by the connotations of what she terms “animal breeding, adornment, love or lust,” creates works that give us access to her susceptibilities as an artist. Sharply attuned to formal nuances whether they are in the realm of color, or shape, or line or subject matter she has explores the arenas of excess, decadence, uncontrolled metamorphosis, and artificiality. She is attentive to aberrations, hybridity, abnormal behavioral psychology, social pathologies, behavioral psychology, and evolutionary biology. She is fascinated by dog shows and child beauty pageants. Miller is compelled to ask questions about the nature/culture divide as she ponders the ins and outs (and the no-exits) of the nurture/nature debate that centers on differing debates about the socialization process. Towards that end Miller paints with astonishing mimetic exactitude in her new work as she goes about shuffling the natural order in her interrogation of differences, limits, and of the impossible.

It is evident in looking at her fantasy paintings that Miller is a perceptive observer and evaluator, that she loves to tell stories and that she is incurably curious and wondering. She is fascinated by fetishism, consumer fetishism in particular, and how sexuality is embodied and projected in how we pitch toys to children as well. Sometimes Miller has observed toys are given “looks” that are meant to insinuate. The paintings of Katie Miller point to her fascinations with how, as a youth-driven culture, advanced Western culture pictures children, how they are sexualized and made into our own adult image. There is a weird queasy pedophilic eroticism that permeates this work, not a small reason why Miller’s “prostitot” image-constructions are at once within the realm of eerily recognizable fantasy and yet removed from it as well. The works are conceivable and inconceivable as animals and children preen and shimmy with the heat of meretricious languor and of overripe sexual promiscuousness. It is perhaps for all these reasons that her work is so compellingly twisted.

Katie Miller’s paintings work on us because while we might concede that an ethical dimension courses through the artist’s intentionalities in the making of her art we don’t feel that Miller works from an assumption that that the artist and her public are in prior agreement as to what moral stance should be taken towards the subjects addressed. Miller doesn’t take the viewer’s sympathy for granted and doesn’t engage in special pleading on behalf of her work or the position she takes vis-a-vis her subject matter. Instead she puts us in the uncomfortable situation of not quite knowing what to think of her provocations.

The artist’s social and psychological caricatures in Little Boy Blue and His Comely Cremello and Tiny Miss Diva’s Puppy Style do not depend on the florid deformations or overt attenuations of elastic body parts as in the works of John Currin, or Lisa Yuskavage. Instead Miller treats her subjects with cool control and diffidence more along the lines of Nir Hod’s recent “genius” paintings in which he examines the romantic visual tropes out of which our cultural constructions of what constitutes “the prodigy look” emerges. In Miller’s two large paintings the artist brings us scenarios that are nightmarish in their implications. The innocence of the child that defines the normative child has been replaced by an adult consciousness of sexuality and desire. This seemingly compromised boy and girl inhabit natural settings that hold the disenchanted promise of normative woodland perversions and rural horrors. In such surroundings the demonic image of domesticated animals signified by the pet dog and horse has also been cannily visually de-centered. It is as if these beasts have been so un-bestialized so as to embody human desiring-drives that are in turn aided and abetted by meretricious vanity and toxic self-conscious narcissism.

It is in the interplay of the small alterations and minute transpositions in her details work that are used so judiciously throughout her sturdily realistic mimetic renditions of human and animal bodies in place and space that triggers our mounting anxiety. These are the “hooks” that really get to us: the French manicure on the claws of the Yorkshire Terrier, the blue-beribboned underwear of the little boy’s tightie-whitees, the curl of his right toe, the quivering tranny mouth of the little girl. And on and on. Out of this disquiet we as viewers find ourselves in the throes of Nietzschean laughter of which Georges Bataille speaks: “To see tragic characters and to be able to laugh, despite the profound understanding, emotion and sympathy that we feel: this is divine.”

-Dominique Nahas, New York City, April 2011

The Pacifier Paintings

This is a series of tiny panels documenting examples of actual infant pacifiers available for parents to purchase for their children.

I became intrigued by the extreme gender stratification in infants' products, and in how adults' lifestyle interests are expressed through accessorizing their children. The title of each small painting is a string of words reflecting either an eBay auction for the pacifier or its description on another commercial website. Each panel measures 2 x 3 inches, so the pacifiers are about life-sized.

- Katie Miller 2011

Sexualized Animal Fetuses

This small series, shown as part of my show, "The Fancy of Babes" comes out of the following observations and thoughts:

1. KGOY is an acronym for the marketing speak, "kids getting older younger," also referred to as "age compression." This is the phenomena by which products and ideas originally marketed to and consumed by older children are gradually marketed and consumed by younger children.

2. A large number of products marketed to little girls - even toddlers- are related to beauty and "sexiness".

3. Even children's toys meant to be animals sport hourglass figures and flirtatious looks - Tini Puppini and Struts Fashion Horses, for example.

4. What could be more absurd and disgusting than sexualizing a young child? Sexualizing a baby - no, a fetus - an animal fetus.

5. I view these as horrible specimens in a hypothetical world everyone and everything is made into an object for someone's desire.

- Katie Miller 2011

Relentlessly pushing the realist technique toward hyper-realism, Miller creates artistic characterizations of the consumer-driven hype that fuels the commercial sexualization of children. The artist orders her toddler subjects according to hieratic compositions seen in Renaissance masterpieces by Hans Holbein the Younger and Albrecht Dürer, among others, employing geometric principles from that period to instill her figures with the authority of holy, royal or mythological beings. The anachronistic formats interact with Miller's exacting rendering of the children's features and flesh, giving them an otherworldly quality. The youngsters that confront us in these paintings appear disarmingly knowing and self-possessed. This effect is amplified by their attributes, belly button rings and "bling-bling-binky" pacifiers, inspired by Bratz Babyz dolls, and other widely marketed children's products. Even the kids' pets - a purse dog, a Cremello horse and a hairless cat - appear to have been bred to exaggerated points of curvaceousness. In her three largest panels, Miller poses the toddlers' full-length figures in extremely graceful positions that seem to defy anatomy and gravity. Their precarious beauty figures the challenges of balancing childhood with forced adulthood in today's consumer culture.

- Jamie L. Smith, PhD
Press Release, The Fancy of Babes, Conner Contemporary Art, 2011

The Fancy of Babes - Imaginary Portraits

This work explores trends in the adornment of, attitudes towards, and experiences of contemporary children through the lens of portraiture in Western art history. I am particularly interested in how subcultures influence children's fashion and in how norms indicating age and gender have changed over time. Unlike my current work, the imagery for these paintings does not come from photographs of actual children. Instead, I created their faces with morphing software out of many photos found online. Their bodies, clothing, and accessories were similarly assembled out of found photographs.

- Katie Miller 2012

TECHNOLOGICAL MEMENTO MORI

This series began by falling in love with an anonymous 16th century Netherlandish portrait titled Young Girl with a Dead Bird. A toddler holding a dead sparrow in her hands stares off with a haunting expression and eerily small pupils. A similar theme of girls weeping for dead pets is depicted by Jean-Baptiste Greuze in the 18th century. Although none of these historical paintings were necessarily meant to be memento mori or vanitas paintings, they could function as such. My thoughts led to today’s toddlers, whose first experience with death is just as likely to be a handheld device "dying" as it is the passing of a person or pet.

- Katie Miller 2014

ENDURING: Bead Paintings

The imagery in these two paintings connects the bejeweled, status-symbol Renaissance-era portraits of royalty and aristocracy to today's culture of consumption and the profusion of mass-produced, inexpensive goods. Cheap plastic beads and other big-box store craft supplies function as markers of gender and status.

The overload of adornments suggests how appearance and beauty have become the socially dominant measures of worth for women and girls. It also addresses how the all-pervasive pressure on girls to adorn their bodies with manufactured trappings of beauty begins at increasingly younger ages.

One impassive young girl maintains a straight posture, enduring both the physical and metaphorical weight of the beads piled around her head, neck, and arms. Another girl, decontextualized by a flat field of color, appears to float despite her body being bound by her accoutrement.

- Katie Miller 2014

CONNERSMITH is pleased to present Katie Miller’s second solo exhibition with the Gallery. “Enduring” features a new series of portraits painted in oil on wood panel. Miller’s works have been likened to those of John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage, yet her latest paintings engage more deeply with the master works of Hans Memling, Titian, and Bronzino.

In these paintings Miller depicts children in brilliant colors and astonishing detail. Situating live models in historically inspired poses, the artist renders breathtaking visions of contemporary youthfulness within timeless contexts. Miller’s bust- and half-length portraits of preadolescent girls and boys recall canonical portrayals of rulers and aristocrats. Her larger, full-length portraits secularize the vertical energy of resurrection and assumption scenes in Renaissance altarpieces. Nuanced emotions in the children’s faces intensify the power and mystery inherent in the paintings’ compositions.

Miller augments her young subjects with trendy accessories - toys, beads, costumes, and electronic gadgets. These common trappings of the hyper-present provoke the hierarchical formats of the past, emphasizing that “Enduring” means both long lasting and able to withstand duress. Miller draws from an age-old artistic tradition to create imagery that alludes to pressures experienced by present-day youth. Her fine brushwork produces smooth, gemlike surfaces. Subtle expressions of self-awareness reveal each child’s state of transition from childhood to adulthood. The models’ dispositions and adornments suggest that children currently face challenges such as social issues, gender expectations, power struggles, and technological absorption. If, as they endure these pressures, boys and girls become more knowing, they may also become hardened, like the alluring, impermeable pigments in which the artist portrayed them.

Katie Miller’s works are in the following collections: The Rubell Family Collection, Miami; 21C Museum, Louisville; Ognibene Collection, Washington, DC; among others.

- Jamie L. Smith, Ph.D
Press Release for "Enduring" at CONNERMSITH, 2014

  • Girl Bound in Ribbons and Beads - detail 4

    oil and acrylic on panel / 72 x 48 inches / 2014 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some of the beads and accessories. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • Girl Bound in Ribbons and Beads - detail 3

    oil and acrylic on panel / 72 x 48 inches / 2014 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some of the beads and accessories. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • Girl Bound in Ribbons and Beads - detail 2

    oil and acrylic on panel / 72 x 48 inches / 2014 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some of the beads and accessories. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • Girl Bound in Ribbons and Beads - detail 1

    oil and acrylic on panel / 72 x 48 inches / 2014 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some of the beads and accessories. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • Girl Bound in Ribbons and Beads

    oil and acrylic on panel / 72 x 48 inches / 2014 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some of the beads and accessories. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • A Young Lady Adorned with Beads - detail 4

    oil on panel / 40.5 x 27.25 inches / 2013 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some of the beads and accessories. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • A Young Lady Adorned with Beads - detail 3

    oil on panel / 40.5 x 27.25 inches / 2013 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some of the beads and accessories. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • A Young Lady Adorned with Beads - detail 2

    oil on panel / 40.5 x 27.25 inches / 2013 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some of the beads and accessories. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • A Young Lady Adorned with Beads - detail 1

    oil on panel / 40.5 x 27.25 inches / 2013 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some of the beads and accessories. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • A Young Lady Adorned with Beads

    oil on panel / 40.5 x 27.25 inches / 2013 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some of the beads and accessories. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.

ENDURING: life-size paintings

The first of these paintings, Girl on Blue, was created in 2010 and I didn't know at the time that it would become a series four years later. I found myself again drawn to imagery surrounding ascension, resurrection, floating, flying, and falling, along with vaguely Christ-like poses. The flat, matte color fields are reminiscent of the flat gold leaf background in Medieval European painting. I like that they decontextualize the figures and create a "non-space" for the extremely lifelike figures to inhabit.

Each of the paintings consists of a child figure, life-size or slightly larger, painted in oil and finished with a gloss varnish. The color fields are achieved with either oil, acrylic, or some layered combination thereof. They are matte, uniform, and free of texture or irregularity. I experimented with a variety of tools to achieve the effect, including brush, roller, and finally, high volume low pressure house paint sprayer.

- Katie Miller 2014

CONNERSMITH is pleased to present Katie Miller’s second solo exhibition with the Gallery. “Enduring” features a new series of portraits painted in oil on wood panel. Miller’s works have been likened to those of John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage, yet her latest paintings engage more deeply with the master works of Hans Memling, Titian, and Bronzino.

In these paintings Miller depicts children in brilliant colors and astonishing detail. Situating live models in historically inspired poses, the artist renders breathtaking visions of contemporary youthfulness within timeless contexts. Miller’s bust- and half-length portraits of preadolescent girls and boys recall canonical portrayals of rulers and aristocrats. Her larger, full-length portraits secularize the vertical energy of resurrection and assumption scenes in Renaissance altarpieces. Nuanced emotions in the children’s faces intensify the power and mystery inherent in the paintings’ compositions.

Miller augments her young subjects with trendy accessories - toys, beads, costumes, and electronic gadgets. These common trappings of the hyper-present provoke the hierarchical formats of the past, emphasizing that “Enduring” means both long lasting and able to withstand duress. Miller draws from an age-old artistic tradition to create imagery that alludes to pressures experienced by present-day youth. Her fine brushwork produces smooth, gemlike surfaces. Subtle expressions of self-awareness reveal each child’s state of transition from childhood to adulthood. The models’ dispositions and adornments suggest that children currently face challenges such as social issues, gender expectations, power struggles, and technological absorption. If, as they endure these pressures, boys and girls become more knowing, they may also become hardened, like the alluring, impermeable pigments in which the artist portrayed them.

Katie Miller’s works are in the following collections: The Rubell Family Collection, Miami; 21C Museum, Louisville; Ognibene Collection, Washington, DC; among others.

- Jamie L. Smith, Ph.D
Press Release for "Enduring" at CONNERSMITH, 2014

ENDURING: bust- and half-length paintings

"Endure" has an interesting etymology. It morphs from the Proto-Indo-European root *deru, meaning “be firm, solid, steadfast,” into Latin’s indurare, meaning “to make hard” or “harden (the heart) against.” In 12th century French endurer meant “to make hard, harden, bear, tolerate, keep up, maintain.” In 14th century English we have “to continue in existence” and “to undergo or suffer (especially without breaking)”.

Children endure in the face of social issues, gender expectations, lack of power, changing technology, and the transitional nature of childhood. They become harder, both in the sense of stronger and more knowing, but also less flexible, more “set in stone.” Their identities solidify as they endure the pressures of the society in which they live.

- Katie Miller, 2014

CONNERSMITH is pleased to present Katie Miller’s second solo exhibition with the Gallery. “Enduring” features a new series of portraits painted in oil on wood panel. Miller’s works have been likened to those of John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage, yet her latest paintings engage more deeply with the master works of Hans Memling, Titian, and Bronzino.

In these paintings Miller depicts children in brilliant colors and astonishing detail. Situating live models in historically inspired poses, the artist renders breathtaking visions of contemporary youthfulness within timeless contexts. Miller’s bust- and half-length portraits of preadolescent girls and boys recall canonical portrayals of rulers and aristocrats. Her larger, full-length portraits secularize the vertical energy of resurrection and assumption scenes in Renaissance altarpieces. Nuanced emotions in the children’s faces intensify the power and mystery inherent in the paintings’ compositions.

Miller augments her young subjects with trendy accessories - toys, beads, costumes, and electronic gadgets. These common trappings of the hyper-present provoke the hierarchical formats of the past, emphasizing that “Enduring” means both long lasting and able to withstand duress. Miller draws from an age-old artistic tradition to create imagery that alludes to pressures experienced by present-day youth. Her fine brushwork produces smooth, gemlike surfaces. Subtle expressions of self-awareness reveal each child’s state of transition from childhood to adulthood. The models’ dispositions and adornments suggest that children currently face challenges such as social issues, gender expectations, power struggles, and technological absorption. If, as they endure these pressures, boys and girls become more knowing, they may also become hardened, like the alluring, impermeable pigments in which the artist portrayed them.

Katie Miller’s works are in the following collections: The Rubell Family Collection, Miami; 21C Museum, Louisville; Ognibene Collection, Washington, DC; among others.

- Jamie L. Smith, Ph.D
Press Release for "Enduring" at CONNERSMITH, 2014

  • A Girl with Bright Colored Hair - detail

    oil on panel / 20 x 16 inches / 2013 / This painting has accents of metallic oil paint in the hair and earring. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • A Girl with Bright Colored Hair

    oil on panel / 20 x 16 inches / 2013 / This painting has accents of metallic oil paint in the hair and earring. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • Boy with a Muscled Sleeve - detail

    oil on panel / 28 x 22.75 inches / 2014
  • Boy with a Muscled Sleeve

    oil on panel / 28 x 22.75 inches / 2014
  • Youth in a Party Hat - detail 2

    oil on panel / 34 x 23 inches / 2013 / This painting has small touches of interference, and metallic oil paint as accents on some portions of the hat. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • Youth in a Party Hat - detail 1

    oil on panel / 34 x 23 inches / 2013 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some portions of the hat. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • Youth in a Party Hat

    oil on panel / 34 x 23 inches / 2013 / This painting has small touches of interference and metallic oil paint as accents on some portions of the hat. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • Girl Behind a Tinsel Veil - detail 2

    oil on panel / 40 x 24 inches / 2014 / This painting has small dabs of interference and metallic oil paint on the strands of tinsel and the shirt’s rhinestones. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • Girl Behind a Tinsel Veil - detail 1

    oil on panel / 40 x 24 inches / 2014 / This painting has small dabs of interference and metallic oil paint on the strands of tinsel and the shirt’s rhinestones. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.
  • Girl Behind a Tinsel Veil

    oil on panel / 40 x 24 inches / 2014 / This painting has small dabs of interference and metallic oil paint on the strands of tinsel and the shirt’s rhinestones. The effect is subtle, adding an extra bit of luminosity when viewing the painting in person.

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About Katie

BIO Katie Miller is an American artist born in 1984. She was raised in New Hampshire, Florida, and California. Miller graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2007, with a BFA in painting and a minor in art history. In the summer of 2006, she studied traditional fresco and egg tempera in... more

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