See inside Emily Marie Miller’s studio, whose light-filled countryside space influences her fantastical paintings
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 closed her solo exhibition “Ring of Fire” at the Monya Rowe Gallery in New York to follow it up with contributions to the exhibition. collective of the gallery “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 bit like the artist herself and who engage in strange rituals and sexual interludes. The artist admits a particular interest in podcasts on cults as well as a passion for science fiction audio books.
We joined the artist as she left for a well-deserved week of rest and relaxation in Maine and she showed us around her airy country studio.
What is the most indispensable object in your studio?
My paint cart. The paint cart is a bit like my altar – I tend to it every day in order to get into the paint flow. He has a system that has been in place for years. It contains items like a perfectly sized glass palette from a flea market 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 dipping my brushes (in a method recovered from working as a studio assistant for Todd Bienvenu).
What is the studio task on your calendar this week that you are most looking forward to?
I completely walked out of the studio this week. After working for my solo exhibition “Ring of Fire” and my group exhibition “The Bathroom Show” back to back, I’m taking a week off in Maine.
What atmosphere do you prefer when you work?
I prefer an orderly work environment. Not too much clutter. I am a neat painter. I also like the calm. My current studio is the best I’ve ever had – lots of natural light, high ceilings and ample space. It’s a wonderful working atmosphere.
Do you listen to music or podcasts while you work, or do you prefer silence? Why?
I mainly listen to fantasy and sci-fi audiobook series while I paint. I just finished the 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 neckbeard vibe. I like podcasts about abuse of power and cult 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 few Instagram accounts I’m enjoying right now are Balarama Heller and Anastasiya Tarasenko. Balarama Heller’s photographs are both mystical and earthy, and I enjoy her Instagram stories, which show clips of New York through her eyes. Anastasiya Tarasenko curates the weirdest collection of Instagram Stories reposts, in a way that feels authentic and complements their work.
When you feel stuck while preparing for a show, what do you do to get out of it?
When I’m stuck preparing for a show, my first move is usually to try to force productivity. When I finally get it, I stop and do nothing, waiting for the new idea to come to fruition. Taking a break is always fruitful. I also do a lot of reading and research in my practice, which tends to happen after “blocked” periods.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art?
There is a sense of presence that you get with a piece of art that is done well. I can’t explain it, but when you know, you know.
What trait do you despise the most?
I hate when I see a job online and it looks worse in person. This is the biggest disappointment 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 have been doing large charcoal drawings as studies for paintings. I’ve hung them on the studio walls within sight of where I’m painting, so I always look at the drawings for reference. I also look at books and open sketchbooks on chairs.
What is the last exhibition you saw that marked you and why?
I was very impressed by Naudline Pierre’s recent exhibition at the James Cohan gallery. There were many different mediums and ideas on this show, executed to perfection. It was ambitious and well done.
What made you choose this studio over others?
It was difficult to find a studio in the countryside, but luckily I found the best studio I’ve ever had thanks to Camille Breslin. I cross the New York-Massachusetts border every day to get to MUSE Studios, an old mill building on the Housatonic River. I have 100 inch high windows and can hang out with the resident pest control team, tuxedo cats named Artemis and Calliope.
Describe the space in three adjectives.
Peaceful, spacious, sunny.
How does the studio environment influence your way of working?
I have so much more space and natural light in my current studio than I have in years. I was able to have spaces dedicated to drawing, and I can see colors correctly with natural light.
Being outside the city helped me consider and understand physical space, which is what I work with in paintings. I also have more mental space and my nervous system feels relaxed. As a result, my work is less and less cluttered. There is plenty of room for growth!
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