The exhibit Malaise, featuring Liz Miller and Chris Allen is rooted in the anxiety and uncertainty of the times. Both artists’ works are rooted in materiality and process with a nod to traditional crafts. When visiting the gallery viewers will experience the obsessive repetition, tension, and infrastructure of their works in both a physical and emotional response. Miller, making large-scale sculpture works from knotted ropes and Allen, creating small beaded objects, present the beauty in the precariousness of all that surrounds us.
Malaise is on view to the public September 22 – November 13, 2020.
In conjunction with this exhibit, there will be Google Meets Virtual Gallery Talk
September 30th at 6 PM.
Describe your work in 15 words or less
Abstract, materially-intensive, fiber-based works that explore ideas related to infrastructure and perception.
My work addresses themes of spiritual healing, personal growth and epiphanies utilizing marginalized materials.
Liz Miller Left: Structural Permutations(detail) Chris Allen Right:Beaded Rocks(detail)
Who/What are a few of your influences and why?
Early in my career, I was influenced greatly by artists such as Jessica Stockholder and Polly Apfelbaum who extend the language and possibilities of painting to include sculptural approaches and unexpected materials. More recently, I’ve been very excited about the work of avante-gard fashion designer Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garcons), who manages to integrate many disparate, and often discordant, references in fashion designs that are effeminate/ephemeral and also unapologetically assertive/aggressive.
I’m also influenced by very simple things like trips to the hardware store to browse materials, or seemingly mundane conversations at a coffee shop. I’m missing both of these during the current pandemic!
First, my parents for always believing in my capacities.
Two specific teachers continue to influence and inspire. Gerhardt Knodel, the Artist in Residence at Cranbrook Academy of Art gave me an opportunity to study when there were sudden openings in the fiber program, even though I had a BFA in printmaking and two years working in a Natural Dye Studio only. My Fiber classmates were incredible, super talented and very generous. There was a whole new world to learn about and nine departments for cross fertilization … I soaked it up, My work focused on creating large outdoor installations using natural materials that had a life of their own. Why not work with fiber in its purest form? Leaves were paired with rocks repetitively to build work of substance, observed over time and also allowed to disintegrate. Ephemeral Textiles. Gerhardt challenged and encouraged, continually creating an environment of rigorous investigation where the questions may be more important than the answers. I worked for him as a studio assistant after graduate school.
I signed up for a peyote stitch bead weaving workshop between my first and second year of grad school with Joyce J. Scott. She is an African-American artist who started her workshop by singing a spiritual. I cried. My mother was very ill with cancer and it just all hit home. I learned everything I could from Joyce in that one week and haven’t stopped beading since. I proposed focusing on bead work my last year of grad school, but Gerhardt wisely said no, explore this option after graduation. Bead work kept me sane as I grieved the loss of my mother and became a mother myself. Joyce asked me to be her teaching assistant for a workshop at Haystack, a remarkable life-changing experience.
How has the way you work with materials/ideas evolved over the span of your career?
When I started out, I was pursuing a career as a painter. It didn’t take me long to realize that I am a horrible painter, but that I do have a decent sensibility with collage and non-traditional materials. The shift to more sculptural environments was very gradual, as I have no formal background or experience in sculpture. For most of the past decade I have worked primarily in site-specific installations comprised of flexible materials such as fabric and paper. These materials inhabit a magical space that can be 2D…3D…or both. I love working with simple materials that can be manipulated without technical processes or power tools.
More recently, my installation work led me back to the wall, as I became fascinated by the hundreds of knots I was tying to rig the installations. I decided to focus on the knots and rope alone. These new works are a combination of of everything I’ve done as an artist up to this point—materially and conceptually. I am a slow, steady worker, and shifts in my work happen over long periods of time. A change in the work is often sparked by a simple observation of my own process, or just kind of playing with ideas in the studio until something clicks.
During this pandemic … my world has turned upside down and has sometimes been scary, and very confusing. I have also realized this unexpected time may be a gift for creating new work I previously could only dream and sketch. I can loosen up, be less of a purest, explore other techniques I’ve been curious about and consider the mess I don’t understand might make sense later in my work.
What is the first art work you remember making
I don’t know that I can identify a single work, but I can say that drawing was part of my childhood from the beginning. My parents were both computer programmers. My mom would bring home huge boxes of paper. On one side of the paper was the green and white pattern with the code written on it (it seems so crazy to think about that now, ancient times!). The plain side became a never-ending drawing surface for us. The paper was perforated, so we could tear out individual sheets, or make ginormous drawings that spanned entire hallways. By providing us with this surface and a box of crayons, my mom made the activity of drawing seem like something everyone did, and I spent hours entertaining myself this way.
I remember thinking as a child that I was not artistic at all. My younger sister draws naturally and was considered ‘the artist’ of our family, I was 7 or 8, in my room alone and I had an urge to draw a yellow bathtub duck. It was suddenly like being in my own bubble and I knew what to do. I showed my sister, then she said let’s show mom! My mom thought for sure the drawing was Jessie’s at first. My sister is still my biggest fan, and she still draws.
What do you like to do for fun outside of your studio.
I love spending time with my husband, David, and our two standard poodles, Edward and Gretta. We live in the small town of Good Thunder, MN, which is surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape with woods, rivers, and gravel roads that go on and on. I am an avid runner, and have just started getting into cycling. I’m also becoming a better cook.
Most fun for me is gardening. I love flowers. It is amazing to watch a seed evolve into a ripe tomato! There is a beautiful power in a victory garden, especially this year. I think and plan all winter. Figure out which seeds are needed, start them, transplant, replanting when the time is right, watering, weeding, harvesting and preserving. I have beds at home and am also part of a community farm called The Village here in Rochester. The farm focuses on growing food to donate to a local food shelf called Channel One, which my mother founded in 1984.
Chris Allen lives and works in Rochester, MN. She holds an MFA in Fiber arts from Cranbook Academy of Art. She as worked as an arts educator, gallery owner and cake decorator. Chris has exhibited her work in galleries throughout the United States including: the North Dakota Museum of Art, Wayne Art Center in Wayne,PA and The Bead Museum in Washington D.C.
Liz Miller lives and works in Good Thunder, MN. She holds an MFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of MN. She is a Professor of Installation and Drawing at Mankato State University. Liz has exhibited nationally and is the recipient of numerous awards including; the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant, and numerous Artist Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board
Liz Miller is 2020 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
The Visual Arts Exhibition series is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.