Every day painter Emily Marie Miller crosses state lines, traveling from her home in New York’s Hudson Valley 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 wrapped up her solo show Ring of Fire at New York’s Monya Rowe Gallery, only to follow up with contributions to the gallery’s group show The Bathroom Show, which is presenting it week is opened.
Located in the MUSE (Multi-Use Studio Experiment) complex near the Housatonic River, the studio features towering windows, breathtaking vistas and two “studio assistants” – resident cats Artemis and Calliope. In her paintings and drawings, Miller creates nocturnal worlds populated only by women—women who somewhat resemble the artist herself, engaging in eerie rituals and sexual interludes. The artist states a particular interest in podcasts about cults as well as a passion for sci-fi audio books.
We caught up with the artist as she headed to Maine for a well-deserved week of rest and relaxation, and she gave us a peek inside her breezy, rural studio.
What is the most indispensable element in your studio?
My paint truck. The painting wagon is something like my altar – I take care of it every day to get into the flow of painting. It keeps a system that has been coming together for years. It contains items such as a perfectly sized glass palette from a Gowanus junk shop, a beautiful paint scraper with my initials from my brother-in-law Charlie, a paint bowl filled with Murphy’s oil soap for soaking my brushes (in a way borrowed from working as studio assistant for Todd Bienvenu) .
What studio task on your agenda are you most looking forward to this week?
I’m completely out of the studio this week. After working back-to-back on my solo show Ring of Fire and my group show The Bathroom Show, I’m taking a week-long break in Maine.
What atmosphere do you prefer at work?
I prefer an orderly working environment. Not too much clutter. I’m a decent painter. I like it quiet too. My current studio is the best I’ve ever had – lots of natural light, high ceilings and plenty of space. It’s a wonderful working atmosphere.
Do you listen to music or podcasts while you work, or do you prefer silence? Why?
I mostly listen to fantasy and sci-fi audio book series while I paint. I just finished that Mists of Avalon series and now I’m listening to it again Kingkiller Chronicles for the first time since high school, which is kind of a mustache vibe. I like podcasts about abuse of power and cult-like groups. The album I’m repeating this year is this Orange glow by Globelamp.
Which artists, curators or other thinkers are you currently following most on social media?
A few Instagram accounts that I like at the moment are Balarama Heller and Anastasiya Tarasenko. Balarama Heller’s photographs are mystical and earthy at the same time, and I enjoy his Instagram Stories, which show snippets of New York City through his eyes. Anastasiya Tarasenko curates the weirdest collection of reposts on Instagram stories in a way that feels real and compliments her work.
When you’re feeling stuck preparing for a show, what do you do to break free?
When I’m stuck preparing for a show, my first step is usually to try to force productivity. When I finally get smarter, I stop and do nothing and wait for the new idea to solidify. A break is always fruitful. I also read and research a lot in my practice, which usually happens after “deadlocked” phases.
What quality do you admire most in a work of art?
There’s a sense of presence you get with an artwork done right. I can’t explain it, but if you know, you know.
What quality do you despise the most?
I hate when I see a work online and it looks worse in person. This is the biggest disappointment for me. The finish and the beauty of the paint job are so important.
What images or objects do you look at while working?
Lately I’ve been doing large-scale charcoal drawings as studies for paintings. I’ve hung them on the walls of the studio within sight of where I’m painting, so I always look to the drawings for reference. I also look at books and sketchbooks that are open on chairs.
Which exhibition impressed you most recently and why?
I was really impressed by Naudline Pierre’s recent exhibition at the James Cohan Gallery. This show featured many different mediums and ideas that were flawlessly executed. It was ambitious and well done.
Why did you choose this particular studio over others?
It was difficult to find a studio spot in the country, but luckily I found the best studio I’ve ever had through Camille Breslin. Every day I cross the New York-Massachusetts border to MUSE Studios, an old mill building on the Housatonic River. I have 100 inch high windows and get to hang out with the resident pest control group, the tuxedo cat siblings named Artemis and Calliope.
Describe the room in three adjectives.
Quiet, spacious, sunny.
How does the studio environment affect the way you work?
I have so much more space and natural light in my current studio than I have in years. I’ve been able to have my own spaces to draw and I can see colors properly with natural light.
Being out of town has helped me look at the physical space and understand what I’m working through in the paintings. I also have more mental space and my nervous system feels relaxed. As a result, my work becomes less overloaded. There is a lot of room for growth!
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