Melissa Miller’s Monograph

by Charles Dee Mitchell August 5, 2007

The new Melissa Miller monograph
is out from the University of Texas Press, and it is quite the
impressive tome – 11 x 12 inches, 177 pages, over 100 color
illustrations, and essays by both Susie Kalil and Michael Duncan. It is
the first entry in UT’s M. Georgia Hegarty Dunkerly Contemporary Art
Series which will focus on Texas artists. Currently in the works are
monographs on Terry Allen and James Drake. Although it is not part of
the same series, a similar volume on Lance Letscher is also in
preparation, and in the interest of full disclosure I should mention
that I am a contributor to the Lance Letscher book.

Seeing so many of Miller’s early
paintings from the 1980’s brings back that particular moment in when
the narrative tendencies of Texas art were discovered by an art world
caught up with Neo-expressionism and all the figurative, narrative
painting coming out of Europe. Things got a little to mystical in
Miller’s work for my taste during the 1990’s, but the beautiful, recent
watercolors and her solemn take on the “peaceable kingdom” motif make a
strong showing for the book’s conclusion. And all along the way there
are unforgettable images that alternative from the spookiness of a
raccoon raiding a garden at night to the folkish humor of Clowns, where
three monkeys and a rabbit dance on sticks to the great amusement of
the frogs and rabbits that have gathered for the performance. When the
Fort Worth Art Museum (now the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) held
their Miller retrospective in 1986, I think I wrote that The Ark (1986),
her 67 x 84 inch depiction of animals gathering before the Biblical
flood, was the most ambitious and successful narrative painting ever
produced by a Texas artist. The Ark is still occasionally on display in
Fort Worth and my opinion stands.


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