See Inside the Studio of Emily Marie Miller, Whose Light-Filled, Countryside Space Influences Her Fantastical Paintings
The artist's work is featured in "The Bathroom Show" at Monya Rowe Gallery, which opens this week.
Every day, painter Emily Marie Miller crosses state lines, traveling from her home in the Hudson Valley of New York to her studio in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. The past few months have been particularly long studio days for the Florida-born artist, who recently closed her solo exhibition “Ring of Fire” at Monya Rowe Gallery in New York only to follow it up with contributions to gallery’s group exhibition “The Bathroom Show,” which opens this week.
The studio, which is located in the MUSE (Multi-Use Studio Experiment) complex near the Housatonic River, offers towering windows, stunning views, and two “studio assistants”—resident cats named Artemis and Calliope. In her paintings and drawings, Miller creates nocturnal worlds populated only by women—women who look a fair bit like the artist herself and who engage in uncanny rituals and sexual interludes. The artist admits a particular interest in podcasts about cults as well as a passion for sci-fi audiobooks.
We reached the artist as she was heading off for a much-deserved week of rest and relaxation in Maine and she gave us a look around her airy, country studio.
What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
My painting cart. The painting cart is kind of like my altar—I tend to it every day in order to get into the flow of painting. It holds a system that has been coming together for years. It contains items like a perfect-sized glass palette from a junk shop in Gowanus, a beautiful paint scraper pressed with my initials from my brother-in-law Charlie, a paint tray filled with Murphy’s oil soap for soaking my brushes (in a method picked up from working as a studio assistant for Todd Bienvenu).
What is a studio task on your agenda this week that you are most looking forward to?
I am fully out of the studio this week. After making work for my solo show “Ring of Fire” and group show “The Bathroom Show” back to back, I’m taking a week-long rest in Maine.
What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work?
I prefer an orderly work environment. Not too much clutter. I’m a neat painter. I also like quiet. My current studio is the best I’ve ever had—lots of natural light, tall ceilings, and enough space. It’s a wonderful atmosphere to work in.
Do you listen to music or podcasts while you work, or do you prefer silence? Why?
I mostly listen to fantasy and sci-fi audiobook series while I paint. I just finished the Mists of Avalon series and now I’m re-listening to the Kingkiller Chronicles for the first time since high school, which is kind of a neckbeard vibe. I like podcasts about abuses of power and cult-like groups. The album I have on repeat this year is the Orange Glow by Globelamp.
Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?
A couple of Instagram accounts that I’m enjoying at the moment are Balarama Heller and Anastasiya Tarasenko. Balarama Heller’s photographs feel mystical and earthy at the same time, and I enjoy his Instagram stories, which show clips of New York City through his eyes. Anastasiya Tarasenko curates the weirdest collection of reposts on Instagram stories, in a way that feels genuine and compliments their work.
When you feel stuck while preparing for a show, what do you do to get unstuck?
When I get stuck preparing for a show, my first move is usually to try and force productivity. When I finally wise up, I stop and do nothing, waiting for the new idea to coalesce. Taking a break is always fruitful. I also do a lot of reading and research in my practice, which tends to happen following “stuck” periods.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art?
There’s a feeling of presence you get with a work of art that’s done right. I can’t explain it, but when you know, you know.
What trait do you most despise?
I hate when I see a work online and it looks worse in person. That is the biggest letdown for me. The surface and the beauty of the paint application are so important.
What images or objects do you look at while you work?
Recently I’ve been making large-ish charcoal drawings as studies for paintings. I have them hung up on the walls of the studio within view of where I’m painting, so I’m always looking to the drawings for reference. I also look at books and sketchbooks propped open on chairs.
What is the last exhibition you saw that made an impression on you and why?
I was really impressed by Naudline Pierre’s recent exhibition at James Cohan gallery. There were many different mediums and ideas playing out in that show, executed flawlessly. It was ambitious and well done.
What made you choose this particular studio over others?
It was difficult to find studio space in the country, but luckily I found the best studio I’ve ever had through Camille Breslin. I cross the New York-Massachusetts border every day to MUSE studios, an old mill building on the Housatonic River. I have 100-inch-tall windows and get to hang out with the resident pest control squad, sibling tuxedo cats named Artemis and Calliope.
Describe the space in three adjectives.
Peaceful, spacious, sunny.
How does the studio environment influence the way you work?
I have so much more space and natural light in my current studio than I’ve had in years. I’ve been able to have dedicated spaces for drawing, and I can see color correctly with the natural light.
Being outside of the city has helped me to consider and understand physical space, which is something I’m working through in the paintings. I also have more mental space and my nervous system feels relaxed. As a result, my work is becoming less congested. There’s a lot of room for growth!
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