Brittany Miller Interview - The Hopper Prize

Brittany Miller

Brittany Miller on making work for an upcoming solo exhibition, using line in a rhythmic way, & exploring dreams, mythology, & magic.

How did you get into making art?

I started making things when I was young as a coping mechanism. I was a very anxious child, and the only way I found to manage my feelings was to build things and draw things. School was very difficult for me—in every class I would draw the classroom and everything in it in my notebook every day. When I got home, I’d build things out of wood or clay or sew scraps of fabric together. I grew up on a big spread of land, so I’d also go out into the woods a lot and make houses out of branches and leaves and bundles of yarn.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I’m working on paintings for my solo show with Steve Turner in Los Angeles. I just finished paintings for a group show and a presentation at Untitled (Miami) also with ST, and now I’m using some things that I figured out making that work to build my solo show.

I love drawings and paintings that use line in a rhythmic way.

Brittany Miller

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

The current body of work pulls from a lot of ideas that have held my interest over the years. I love drawings and paintings that use line in a rhythmic way—the visual language you see in work by Martín Ramírez, Joseph Yoakum, Louise Bourgeois, and Adolf Wölfli. This rhythm manages to feel soothing and frenetic at the same time. You can imagine how someone might feel building up a picture with these carefully stacked lines, yet the image holds a great deal of tension. They are the kinds of drawings I used to make on the backs of offering envelopes in church on Sundays.

Another idea from the current body of work has to do with the solitary figure existing in a sort of purgatorial state, a dream state, or in a place where some kind of magic is taking place. Another way I’ve dealt with reality is by looking for magic—by mythologizing someone I’m dating or finding patterns that reveal a secret narrative as to why something has happened. I remember reading Matilda and believing I could probably move objects with my eyes, too, if I tried hard enough. I’m also thinking about the final scene in Stalker.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I feel like this will change as I continue in my career, but right now I feel like I’m just putting one foot in front of the other. Each painting informs the next in some way, and they all talk to each other. And then after a little bit of time has passed, I can tell which works belong in a show together.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I like to wake up at 5am and immediately start working. Then I make some tea and eat something before I keep going, and usually I’ll go for a run in the park if the weather is nice. If I am starting a new painting or figuring out a part of the composition, I’ll wait until I’ve fully woken up so that I can put all of my attention on what I’m doing. My process is very slow and precise, so I like to have some background noise going—sometimes Bachelor in Paradise, sometimes a record, or a radio show.

Who are your favorite artists?

My list of favorite artists changes every day, and it’s mostly just a jumbled up mix of images in my head, but I’d say Soutine and Bonnard will always be in the list.

I love Kevin McNamee-Tweed, Nickola Pottinger, and Andrew Cranston. I’ve also been a big fan of Angela Dufresne and I watch all of her talks on Youtube. Of course, Kathy Bradford (I own a little painting). I think Jarrett and Jon Key are both incredible. And Sasha Gordon is the best painter working right now, if I had to choose.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I am looking at art all day, every day if I’m not working–sometimes on Instagram if I’m eating or on the train. I always keep track of the programming of my favorite galleries. I also have a library of art books that I return to–often to see artists that are referenced in someone’s work.

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