Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A little tribute to Chris Miller

Chris’ contribution to opening up the untimely buried figure sculpture of the 20th and 21st centuries is awesome;

but what of his “own contribution” as he puts it?

Literary expression is not my strong point but instead I will just draw your attention dear reader, to Mr. Miller the sculptor.

It would be easy just to say I like Mr. Miller’s work and leave it at that, but of course that is not me!

I will choose three, using Chris’ own format “The Good, The Pretty and The Ugly”.
I think he said that no art is bad; in his case this is true.

One eminent contemporary artist once said to me “Robert you need to study more anatomy”. So I did a lot more and he was right, there was a little improvement, at least I thought so. Drawing and sketching the human form was intensified and much paper and many pencils broken in frustration were shredded and binned in the recycling box.

The few drawings that Chris has allowed us to see on his website show that he too has done his home work. The first one here shows simplicity, an economy of line and hatching which portrays the form effortlessly; a warm, cuddly, sensuous sketch. (a larger version is here )

This one of a man is again to the point; proportions and form are useful and instructive; nothing warm and cuddly here but a firmness of purpose.

Both these are useful to the process of creating sculpture and are works of Art in their own right.

The results of all this preparation is of course his real love Figure Sculpture. Here you can see the results of his passion for creating the human form. It simply cascades from him.

I will allow the reader to analyse these I have chosen.

Good face, classic pose,

(A larger version is here )

Commanding presence, well proportioned

An Eastern influence?

And more as a bonus…

another reclining

I like this portrait

and one for the girls,!

great pose and a good male bottom,

The rest of his work can be found here:

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Blogger Marly Youmans said...

Now that was very interesting--to see one sculptor make a "selected works" show of another! And I think it especially useful here because there is so much available to chose from, an almost bewildering variety. Chris is so good at documenting others, it is good to see him documented in return by another artist.

Thanks, Robert--

4:32 pm  
Blogger Blue Genes said...

Wow! I can barely draw a stick figure myself! I really don't know how you guys do it.

Thanks once again for your comment. But reboot with a saved copy? Are you kidding, we can't even get stem cell research done here let alone human cloning!

I hope the French didn't put you off. I thought that since you mentioned having lived in France and your old French girlfriend that it might be okay. C'est fini le francais, je te le promets. Pas de francais, pas un seul mot de francais! Jamais! :~)

4:53 am  
Blogger Robert said...

Marly, I will add some more in the future but as you say there is a lot on offer.

Blue Genes, feel free to use French when ever you like as the whim takes you. There is always the danger of a little "lost in translation" which could make it even more entertaining!

10:52 am  
Blogger iona said...

Hi Daddy, and Marly and Blue Genes,

What a lovely idea, I agree that it is extremely interesting to see what one sculpter will choose to highlight of anothers work. I liked the gold man's bottom!

And although i never understand it, I love the French.


1:56 pm  
Blogger Amanda J. Sisk said...

Thank you, Robert, for taking the time to highlight Mr. Miller's work. Our competitive field does not often seem to yield this healthy exchange.

I often point peers and students to Mr. Miller's documentation of recent figure sculpture, and I look forward to seeing more of his personal creations.

Best wishes, fellow sculptors.

4:07 pm  
Blogger chris miller said...

Thankyou, Robert !

I'm a bit overwhelmed here -- I wasn't expecting anyone to notice me for another 500 years (when I wouldn't have to worry about living up to my own reputation)

It's very interesting (to me) regarding which ones you've picked.

The standing girl with a knife is in my shop (I'm looking at her right now) -- and I do enjoy that one -- like a candy, melting in my mind.

Actually -- I like to look at a lot of them (that's why I made them !) -- especially when I'm too tired to want to keep on changing them.

I guess the only thing that keeps me from becoming a total solipcist is the attention I give to what others -- like you and Amanda -- are doing.

Thanks again -- I'm sending the link directly to my mother.

9:21 pm  
Blogger Blue Genes said...

Hello Robert and greetings to friends. Thank you, I'm really glad you enjoy my blog.

To borrow from a cliche, un oeuf is enough. Yes, I am slowly but surely recovering from egg week.

I read a while back (I can't remember where) a critique of Hollywood representations of female presidents. They said something about subtly reinforcing negative stereotypes, like showing her getting emotional and needing a few moments to regroup which never happens with a male pres. or something of the sort. I don't know if this is accurate as I've never seen these shows. It's hard enough to watch the real Washington which frankly doesn't often leave me wanting more! Except for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. Do you know it over on your side of the pond? If not, I highly recommend you google it and watch some of the clips. To catch one of my all time favorites (though from many years ago)Google "Daily Show Jon Stewart Bush Bush"--the two Bushes are intentional. For all I know I could be asking you the equivalent of "Do you breathe air on your side of the pond?" like the typical American in a bubble. You send me links to Brueghel and Goya and I send you to Comedy Central. Feel free to fill in with your favorite dumb American joke here. In light of this juxtaposition I think it's well deserved although Jon Stewart is a satirical genius).

Congrats to you for pressuring your govt. into planning to withdraw troops from Iraq! Let's hope it continues for you and finally starts happening for us or US--take your pick from capitals or no capitals. Aha, maybe that's the advantage that we have that allows us/US to claim we're #1. I've always thought this notion was pure idiocy but maybe it has a legitimate foundation in typeset efficiency :~)

Just to clarify, I do not like Guiliani. He's an ex-prosecutor with a mean side. He is credited for cleaning up NY, reducing crime making it safer etc. but he had great help from the booming economy and his methods to my view were more of the cosmetic "out of sight out of mind" reshuffling of homeless, poor, etc. kind rather than implementations of real, humane solutions. There's a reason why he's a Republican!

I'm hoping Hillary does not win the primary or the Democrats will have shot themselves in the foot, she's simply not electable, too polarizing a figure, too much baggage. People have had 14 years to smear her and smear they have. I don't think however anyone is afraid of a recurrent Monicagate. On the contrary, a nasty book was published a while back saying she was a lesbian and that that's why Bill went shopping elsewhere... Others speculate that she's frigid. As if adultery weren't common enough without needing to "cherche midi a 14h" (look for a complicated solution when a simple one is right in front of you. I can't think of an English idiomatic expression with this meaning right now. If you can, please let me know. There probably is one right in front of me my nose). Personally,I couldn't care less about Mrs. Clinton's sexual orientation/habits--she could go from Clinton to Clitoris Kitten by night for all I care, but I'm afraid these and all of the other smears have done a lot of damage. (I believe it is obvious that I share your fear of and distaste for religious, ideological nutjobs when they cross the boundary of separation bet. church and state.)

Don't feel I know Barak Obama well enough to have formed an opinion yet. Bill Richardson might be interesting. Still need to learn more about him too. I love the fact that John Edwards has always been focused on class inequalities, his "two Americas," but I'm not sure he's the brightest one in the pack. But after Bush anything is a step up, a flight up, hell a skyscraper up! With his heart in the right place and good advisers, though, Edwards maybe wouldn't be so bad.
Anyway, those are my deux centimes for what they're worth--probably about 1.038 but then down to 0.954 after the currency exchange. I do lean way farther to the left than the vast, vast majority of my compatriots though so I'm not sure how helpful my 0.954 cents are if your goal is to get a better sense of the pulse of America.

I wanted to answer your questions and of course digressed as I seem practically incapable of not doing, especially when I should be working. I hope this post wasn't too long. Thanks for your continuing commentary, Robert, I really enjoy our exchanges.

February 22, 2007 4:42 PM

9:45 pm  
Blogger Conrad H. Roth said...

When I was a boy, my parents enrolled me in a life-drawing class. It was probably the first time I'd seen a nude woman. I'd seen naked women before, but this was different. Unintentionally I gave her a Spanish look, with chunky features and a stern expression. When the magistra gave me pointers I completely disregarded them, so wilful and selfheaded was I.

I tried sculpting once too, and all I got out of it was a melancholy ape.

But of course even had I laboured for years at this least recognised of art-forms--even for decades--I doubt I would have attained these heights. My eye is not fit to judge, of course, so I can only gaze upwards.

Thank heavens for the internet, for bringing folks like you into each other's homes, and into ours.

5:57 am  
Blogger Robert said...

Do you still have the drawings of the Spanish looking Model Conrad?

9:24 am  
Blogger Conrad H. Roth said...

I might well, I'll have a look. I do however have the melancholy ape. Don't sneer!

9:48 am  
Blogger Robert said...

Sneer? Conrad it may lack the sophistication of a Miller and the finesse of a Sisk but to an alien it is more recognisable than a Moore or a Hepworth. I would definitely put it in the 20th Century!

You look to me to be heading for the Victor Ludorum. Lets us hope that Gawain comes up with something.

4:53 pm  
Blogger Amanda J. Sisk said...

Mr. Roth has cheered me considerably. I especially enjoyed the landscape that the melancholy one inhabits!

10:20 am  
Blogger Blue Genes said...

Very powerful, thank you for the link to the Colossus, Robert. Conrad, what had your melancholy ape just read to put him into that state?

10:30 pm  
Blogger Conrad H. Roth said...

Amanda, that landscape is my mother's coverlet; BG, I think he'd been reading some Kafka or something like that. In any case, my 6th-grade art teacher deserves some of the credit. Really, it only serves to highlight the talent of serious sculptors like yourselves!

4:24 am  
Blogger Nabeel said...

I don't understand .. why are most sculptures naked?

6:32 am  
Blogger Robert said...

Nabeel, welcome. Of course your question has arisen before but not to me directly!

I had written a detailed answer including a description of how the evolution of Western Art has relied so heavily on studies of the nude, but decided that it is not what you want to hear.

I will not answer for Chris but in my case it is very simple:

Income; I need to make a living so most of my work is commissioned. Slightly less than half is for animals. I have been commissioned to do two male nudes one by a man of himself and the other a woman for herself. My other nudes, 31 are female, and 23 have been commissioned and/ or bought by women most of them over the age of 60. Sometimes for themselves and sometimes as presents for their husbands or sons!

Statistics can be used and manipulated to support any argument but these are actual figures.

Now of course not all sculpture is nude. Personally I agree with Michelangelo’s famous remark about the foot being nobler than the shoe, but I am also of the opinion that you need to get the proportions right with a nude figure before adding cloths. If you are using stone as your medium you still need to think and plan nude before thinking cloths. This is often done in clay or wax before a chisel is raised.

I have produced clothed works too see here.

The human figure is the most beautiful of all objects. If you are religious it is “the image of God”.

A sculptor friend, in her late fifties, reported a lovely scene at one of my exhibitions; a small girl was trying to mimic the pose of my works “Swallow” in front of an amused audience.

Here it is

2:32 pm  
Blogger Nabeel said...

thank you for the detailed answer .. I loved the read. And what a great quote by Michael Angelo .. the foot is nobler than the shoe. I agree.

hmm at the explanation .. I agree with most parts of it .. i.e. proportions and such for the human body .. but i still am confused or I should say displeased with the reality. Clothing is very important .. and sure a human body sculpture can be nude .. but let's say that women's sculpture u made .. why did it have to be nude? It just adds a touch of sexuality to it. In the olden days .. when sculptures got popular .. wasn't sexuality (having sex with others) common? I am not sure .. but anyway .. the image of God ..hmm .. i have to disagree .. even when people die my friend, they are covered in a piece of cloth.. when Adam and Eve became naked, it was a state of shame. Do you see the relation?

I loved the frock that the girl is wearing and the way her hair styles, and of course a smile that resembles a summer day.

6:17 pm  
Blogger Robert said...

Nabeel thank you for your kind comments. I believe we should not be ashamed of what we have been given. If we are fat then we probably are eating too much. But we came into the world without clothes and no one was surprised! I think that we will have to agree to disagree.

I loved your site; I will visit again if I may.

9:05 pm  
Blogger chris miller said...

Nabeel's question is a tough one because, let's face it, Western Europe's interest in the nude is something of an anomaly among world civilizations -- and even then -- it disappeared for almost a thousand years during what we like to call the "middle ages".

I love the nude probably because I grew up in a house filled with nude sculpture -- for me it has always been the way that life LOOKS beautiful -- but, of course,
I can understand that most of the world's population, like Nabeel, grew up in different circumstances.

Something happened in 4th C. BC Athens -- I don't know why it happened -- it's still a mystery to me -- but for some reason a kind of realistic drama -- a way of
thinking about the natural world -- a way of thinking about human relationships -- and a kind of realistic nude sculpture appeared over a very short period --- and I have loved the next 2500 years of
all of the above. (despite my recent fascination with Asian literature and painting)

Coincidentally -- I just wrote here about Michelangelo's 20 nudes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Of course - in addition to the nudes -- he also made some of the most compelling mythic or religious imagery ever made. (and maybe if someone offered me a church wall --
I'd try to do the same !)

12:39 am  
Blogger Robert said...

Did Western Europe’s interest in the nude influenced global culture? There are examples of the nude from many parts of the world. Eastern Europe, the Americas, India, Japan, Africa etc. Should we lay it all at the door of the Greeks? After all the nude Venus of Willendof 27,000 years old, the icon of prehistoric art, was found in Austria.

I was avoiding all this because I believe Nabeel was interested in the present and trying to link nudity in sculpture with procreation.

10:58 am  
Blogger Robert said...

What I missed in my last was that The Venus, or perhaps she should be more accurately the Woman of Willendorf was made from limestone found in Southern England and the USA.

11:05 am  
Blogger chris miller said...

Anticipating your objections, Robert, I had written
"a kind of realistic nude sculpture appeared" (in ancient Athens)
-- which I think would deal with the Ms. Willendorf and all the under unclothed images from around the world.

Of course, a lot of fudging can accompany the word "realistic"
(for example -- a yellow blur might be the most realistic depiction of a lion -- because that's all you see as you are running away)

But if we accept the unusual situation of selecting a very handsome person,stripping him nude, and then making him stand beneath good light in some attractive position --
then the ancient Greeks were unique in borrowing so much of what could be actually seen.

There's absolutely zero nude sculpture in the Chinese world (except for medical purposes) --
and the nude only appears graphically in pornogaphy.

There's plenty of very attractive nude sculpture in India -- but I don't get the feeling that living models had been
carefully studied -- and I think that's even more true of Africa and the Americas.

But I'm always ready to see whatever good examples you can find!

2:26 pm  
Blogger chris miller said...

Ooops - something very important -- I forgot to mention that this "kind of realistic nude sculpture"
is a kind that incorporates observations into a rhythmic design of masses, spaces, lines, and planes.

They didn't just make identical copies or life-casts or compendia of anatomical details. (i.e. -- they were worlds apart from the neo-academics who have popped up in our postmodern artworld)

2:37 pm  
Blogger Robert said...

Of course I fully agree Chris. It is strange that there appears to be a very sudden change to more realistic Sculpture in ancient Greece. There was also a very strange “change” in 1910 or there abouts! What triggers these things is intriguing to say the least and if we knew we could be very rich I dare say!

Nabeel’s question was I think however quite broad, it seems on further research that Homo-Erectus produce sculpture 1,700,000 years ago but the Greeks made it more believable.

3:36 pm  
Blogger Marly Youmans said...

Perhaps Nabeel would be helped by the idea that Adam and Eve were not in a state of shame when they were naked. They were in a state of innocence, walking with God in a garden. It is only with loss of innocence that shame comes to them--and shame and loss of innocence means that they won't walk with God, won't walk in a garden that streams with life and wholeness any more.

Perhaps art--sculpture--attempts to restore that harmony, vitality, and innocence. And sometimes it does, and sometimes doesn't.

3:06 pm  
Blogger chris miller said...

Here's what Kenneth Clark had to say in "Art of the Nude":

"The feeling that the spirit and body are one, which is the most familiar of all Greek characteristics, manifests itself in their gift of giving to
abstract ideas ideas a sensuous, tangible, and for the most part, human form. Their gods take visible shape, and on their appearance are usually mistaken for
half-familiar human beings. "Greek Statues" said Blake in his "Descriptive
Catalog" , "are all of them representations of spiritual existences, of gods immortal, to the mortal, perishing organ of sight; and yet they are embodied
and organized into solid marble" The bodies were there, the belief in the gods was there, the love of rational proportion was there. It was the unifying grasp of Greek imagination that brought together. And the nude gains its enduring value from the fact that it reconciles several contrary
states. It takes the most sensual and immediately interesting object, the human body, and puts it out of reach of time and desire; it takes the most purely rational concept of which mankind
is capable, mathematical order, and make it a delight to the senses; and it takes the vague fears of the unknown and sweetens them by showing that the
gods are like men and may be worshipped for their life-giving beauty rather than their death-dealing powers."

(note: I certainly would not present Clark as an authority --but the above is a nice meditation on history)

(note2: a discussion of this topic has just begun on Aesthetics-L listserv -- where all are invited to participate. (and it remains the ONLY listserv from which yours truly has not be thrown off !)

6:36 pm  
Blogger Marly Youmans said...

How hilarious! You are always thrown off, are you?

That's a very good quote, I think. And I've never noticed you caring about Authority, Chris! Take the good stuff where you find it.

See you on Mount Shang. I keep seeing you and Robert round and about...

1:59 am  
Blogger Lucy said...

Really interesting post, and the discussion in the comments thread too.
I like the way the woman's thigh in the first sketch is enlarged in the foreground, the kind of thing one might want to avoid in a photo gives the drawing more depth. As to the second sketch, I wouldn't say firmness of purpose altogether precluded warm and cuddly...

6:24 am  

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