Work on Monday: “Sloth Pieta” by Steve Miller

February 11, 2013

By Oliver Peterson


Sloth Pieta, 2011, Carbon on cotton print, 26 x 24 inches


This week, Work on Monday examines “Sloth Pieta,” a carbon print by East End artist Steve Miller. The print features an x-ray of a mother sloth and her child, recalling, by title and image, Michaelangelo Buonarroti‘s 1499 masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture.Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.

While Michaelangelo‘s Pieta depicts the anguished scene of Jesus lying dead on the lap of Mary after his crucifixion, Miller‘s work looks at the tragic death of nature in Brazil. Part of his Health of the Planet series, “Sloth Pieta” is one of a number of pieces created using x-ray machines in Brazil‘s Amazon River Basin. It at once demonstrates the stunning beauty, rich life and biodiversity of the region, and its fragile and threatened condition.

Miller has called the Amazon ”the lungs of the planet” and he warns that deforestation and exploitation of its natural resources has grave consequences. As the viewer looks beyond the lovely composition and stark black and white imagery of the mother sloth holding her child, we see both creatures’ skeletons, which could so easily be broken.

Use of technology like the x-ray machine is not new for Miller, and he does it to magnificent effect with Sloth Pieta. It’s no accident that this almost magical advancement by man is used to look within such a beautiful product of nature. The two meet in a synergistic collision, begging us to consider two ends of the spectrum and ask, how can we coexist?

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