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Us and Earth: 2017 year in review

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Our strongest memories are often tied to our experience of a place. My own experience of beauty and joy comes from watching the world change, through seasons, a sunset, waves and tides, growth and decay, and from our human interactions with this endless cycle, simultaneously reshaping our environments and ourselves. I realized over the past year that my artwork speaks most to our inseparable relationship with the natural world. Our environment creates context for everything we do.

Night Sea ceramics exhibit by artist Emily Miller - full moon and hatching turtlesNualolo Kai - Hawaii painting by artist Emily MillerLeft: Full Moon and Hatching Turtles, porcelain and stoneware. Right: Nualolo Kai, 30×40″ acrylic on canvas.

I spent last year digging deeper into materials and methods rather than continuing to try new things. I revisited my work with reclaimed fishing rope and found objects. I created new paintings in watercolor, acrylic and encaustic, pushed my moldmaking skills further, and continued to experiment with photograms in the darkroom. After laying the groundwork for these projects in earlier years, my work is starting to feel more thoughtful and purposeful (to me, anyway!) and I am excited to see where this leads.

Rope Baskets, fiber art sculpture in progress by Emily MillerFruit of Life and Death, photogram by Emily MillerLeft: Rope Baskets in progress. Right: Fruit of Life and Death, 8×8″ photogram.

Painting on Kauai…

I spent a few weeks on Kauai, doing research for an ongoing painting project documenting sacred structures around the island. I completed six new paintings of Hawaiian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian sites. All in all, I finished 15 new paintings of Kauai last year.

Painting in Oregon…

I spent most of my time plein air painting in Oregon, capturing the seasons at local farms and wine country, and painting more lighthouses along the coast.

Water & Form solo show

Water & Form, Oregon art exhibit by Emily Miller

The biggest event of the year for me was a solo show at the 510 Museum in Lake Oswego, Oregon. My exhibit, Water & Form, was an opportunity to share the Cascadia Winter encaustic series I created during a winter 2016 artist residency, and to build on that series with a brand-new ten-panel encaustic project, River to Sea.

Underfoot IV (Cascadia Winter series), abstract encaustic wax painting by Emily MillerCoastline I (River to Sea series), abstract encaustic wax painting by Emily MillerLeft: Underfoot IV (Cascadia Winter series), 10×10″. Right: Coastline I (River to Sea series), 12×12″.

I also re-imagined some of my favorite recent sculpture projects for Water & Form, creating a new series of reclaimed fishing rope baskets and a set of large-scale ceramics to partner with my Wanderers glow orbs.

Rope Baskets, fiber sculpture by Emily MillerOstrea, ceramic sculpture by Emily Miller Left: Rope Baskets (Deer Isle), 4″ to 9″ high, each. Right: Ostrea, stoneware, 20″ to 30″ wide, each.

In the ceramics studio…

I probably spent more time in the ceramics studio last year than anywhere else, between ongoing production work for my Urchin Bowls and creative play on new projects.

Urchin Rice Bowl in Shell Pink - porcelain bowl by Emily MillerSucculents, ceramic and glass sculpture by Emily MillerLeft: Urchin Rice Bowl in Shell Pink, porcelain, 5″ wide.
Right: Succulents, glass and ceramic, 2.5″ to 6″ each.

One of my favorite projects was taking part in the Beaver Tales traveling art exhibit. I saw so much great energy and dedication to Oregon’s environment and the arts at each gallery opening as the exhibit traveled around Oregon throughout the year.

Beaver Family, ceramic sculpture by Oregon artist Emily MillerBeaver Family, stoneware, 2″ to 14″ tall, each.

I sold 6 beaver sculptures, and the exhibit raised over $22,000, with a portion benefiting local nature conservation groups. The exhibit formed new partnerships between local art galleries, environmental nonprofits, and artists. Beaver Tales inspired me to consider other ways my artwork could contribute to the communities that support me.

Giving Back

I chose to donate 10% of my proceeds from September to December 2017 to local art and ocean conservation groups. I split my donation between Kauai Society of Artists and Washed Ashore. Washed Ashore is an ocean conservation group based in Bandon, Oregon that makes incredible large-scale sculptures of sea creatures using ocean trash. Their work travels to museums around the country to raise awareness of ocean pollution issues.

My donation to Kauai Society of Artists will fund two awards for their annual exhibits by Kauai artists: the Emerging Artist Award and Malama Aina Award (caring for the land). I was 16 when I was first invited to exhibit with Kauai Society of Artists under a special “young artist” waiver. It was wonderful to grow up as part of such a welcoming, talented and supportive group and I feel grateful to be able to perpetuate that support in the KSA community now.

 
In 2018 I will continue to focus on finding ways my artwork can support what I love: the ocean, wild life in the natural world, and the sense of wonder and joy we find when we encounter them.

Sunset at Cannon Beach Oregon

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