Steve Miller: Featured Member
Using the lens of technology, artist Steve Miller reinvents the traditional painted portrait, the world of fashion, particle physics, molecular biology, and the world environmental crisis.
In his most recent project, “Health of the Planet,” Miller focuses on the Amazon Rainforest through an exquisite visual investigation of the beauty and fleeting nature of one of our planet’s most important “hot spots” (the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on Earth). In this series, he utilizes an X-ray photographic technique applied to organisms native to the Amazon, providing an intimate portrait of the jungle. Through this art, Miller gives Brazil a medical check-up of “the lungs of our planet” – the Amazon Rainforest. This project has also inspired a line of clothing and surfboards designed by Miller for Osklen of Rio which launches July 2013.
JB [Julia Buntaine, Feature Member Editor @ASCI]:When did you begin putting art and science together and why?
SM [artist, Steve Miller]: By 1980, I began to realize the impact of technology on visual aesthetics. My first solo show presented a multi-media computer installation entitled “Network” at White Columns in New York City, which analyzed financial commodity trading and the distribution of contemporary art. It became increasingly obvious that science and technology would be the international language of visual culture and in 1986, I began to silk-screen computer generated images onto painted canvases. By 1992, I began making portraits utilizing new medical imaging technologies. I explored the painted portrait, which had been marginalized by photography, by examining the organic interior of the human body.
Fish Circle by Steve Miller, 2011, carbon inkjet on cotton rag paper, 29.83″ x 24″
JB: As an art-sci practitioner, what are your goals for your current work?
SM: Working with science and technology is a personal preference and also because it is the international language of communication and networking. The goal of this language system is to connect information with others. Information about climate change, life-saving science, and the origins of the universe, are big topics in which I would like to have a voice as well as communicate these ideas in a new format. Perhaps, making these ideas available in a way that brings the art viewer into this global conversation, is an achievable goal.
JB: What are the challenges you currently face in doing your work?
SM: Richard Feynman is quoted as saying no one understands quantum mechanics. The next project for which I am doing research is about the Large Hadron Collider and the quest to find the Higgs Boson particle at CERN in Switzerland. The fun part is hanging out with the scientists. However, the biggest challenge is not getting into the technical aspects of quantum physics because that causes the eyes of the art audience to glaze over.
Torch Snake by Steve Miller, 2012, Epson print on rag paper, 24 X 36 inches
Photographer and painter, Steve Miller has been making work at the intersection of art and science for the past 32 years, exhibiting nationally and internationally. Miller was one of the first artists in the 80s to experiment with computer generated images, and he has made his mark in contemporary photography ever since. The artist has presented 36 solo exhibitions at major institutions in the United States, China, France, and Germany. His exhibitions have been reviewed in Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, ArtForum, ARTnews, and Art in America.
He is well known for several art-science projects, including his long-term collaboration with Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Rod MacKinnon, who studies the way ions move across cell membranes. For this work, Miller combined molecular imagery with notations and diagrams from MacKinnon’s experimental notebook. This work will be featured in a solo exhibition, “Crossing the Line: Paintings by Steve Miller” at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. from August 5, 2013 – January 13, 2014. Marvin Heiferman curated the show and a catalog is available.
(detail) Booming Demand by Steve Miller, 2012, pigment dispersion and silkscreen on canvas, 61.5″ x 107″
All the hand writing and diagrams is information the artist photographed from the scientist’s notebooks and then screened onto canvas. Detail above is from catalog cover image of Steve’s solo show opening at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. on August 5, 2013.