by Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino
stays is that color, that “yellow.” I wonder,
the significance of this color for you, and is this your signature
color and if so do you have a name for this specific color, this hue which
I am here referring to as “yellow”? What stays
is the impression of . . . the
sun, a celebration of sunlight, of starlight, and
which is life-giving, life-sustaining. The impression is
of having been glissading on a beam of starlight. Immediately,
my impression is that your work celebrates life, celebrates sunlight,
starlight, and most necessarily celebrates the eye! It reminds
me of The Beatles’ yellow submarine, that yellow does, and
I think of how that yellow submarine is to the oceans as the yellow
star is to outerspace, and of how we are made of that same stuff
as the stars and that maybe, maybe we are destined to travel space,
forever, in the form of starlight. My impression of your
work is this
work celebrates life!
have guessed correctly that the color yellow has great significance
for me. It is the color of hope and without it we cannot live. The
absence of hope is death.
think also, being a mother, it has been important to me to instill
optimism in my children and to show them, to teach them, that they
can indeed go on, when sometimes it may appear as if they cannot. I
did not choose the color consciously, but rather instinctively.
is not a particular color, or hue of yellow, any will do, that strike
me as pleasing. I don’t split hairs with colors and I
have no idea how to mix them to match another shade, so I’m
pretty free with the way I use them. I may even begin covering
a canvas with one shade of yellow and run out of it and then go to
another shade to continue. It is essential to me that my work
contain both the dark and the light and I do this with the use of
a full, bright color palette. I think this is unusual. My
paint colors are never brown, gray, white, or off whites, they are
all brights, with the exception of black, which I use judiciously. Usually
if black shows up in my paintings or collages, it means danger. If
the light and the dark are balanced, it is the place where we feel
whole. Joy resides in sorrow and loss and hope hug in the corner.
yellow paintings did not begin until a year ago and at some point,
I wrote these statements about yellow, as a poetic explanation. If
there is yellow, there is light. If there is light, there is
sun. If there is sun, there is hope. And, so, yes, yellow
is a celebration.
Silence of Love and Families” 2007
plastic, acrylic, metal, pinecones, Sharpie, safety pins
14” x 29”)
do we wound with our silence?
not leave Your Love unspoken Across The Chasm, The Abyss.
unspoken Love, My Love.
Silence far from Your Heart. And I Shall: My Love.
writing on your scultpures (why “sculptures”?), at
first I wondered if this was your poetry, which is to say if this
was your preferred mode of deposition . . . these messages, mottoes,
proverbs, precepts, there’s something “daily prayer” about
it. Why do you do this? What are we to make of these?
wrote poetry long before I did visual work. I was a creative
kid, from a creative family, but I was not an artist. That
came much later. Once I began visual work, the writing remained
separate, until about 10 years later. It was then that both
works appeared together. When I am doing my visual stuff, I
will sit working with a pencil and a BIG FAT PAD next to me and I
write down all the ideas that come to me as I am painting, or drilling
or what have you. I love to spread out, hence, the big fat
pad. I like everything arrayed around me and I like to see
everything at once. Especially as I typically work on more
than one piece at a time. I like the excited chatter that goes
on around me. I have a lot to say and my messages cannot be
contained merely to the visual. Funny you should say “daily
prayer,” as my father was a minister, and there is a lot of
the pastor in me. I have some soapboxes, but I do not believe
my messages are “preachy,” rather, they tell stories
of redemption and they tell stories of survival skills, they are
messages of sharing and messages of hope. I have a series of
boxes I did called “Boxes for Hope” and this is their
mantra, their daily prayer, if you will:
need as much as we can get.
can never give up any.
we can never give too much away.
share my beliefs, as in the piece below.
father was powerfully gifted as a writer. He once wrote, “I
discovered I had the capacity for deep passion that drove words out
of my fingers like bullets.” For my offering this month,
I have spliced together pieces of my father’s writings with
my own. It is in a call and response style. You could
say it’s a Father Daughter poem.
What do you say after you’ve said goodbye?
I believe in the Halleluiah’s of making wonder and glory spring
How to shed a tear after you’ve cried?
I believe in how close in the heart and of the flesh two can be.
What’s a noise after you’ve shouted?
I believe that every day you should feel loved and adored.
How can one trip after you’ve fallen?
I believe in the search for the heart of miracles a hand can fashion.
How can one love more, when love is so full?
I believe when I enter a church, I don’t have to click my heels,
think I will continue to pull different statements from my work as
time goes on and more of those will be brought to the fore front. They
are there to be absorbed, and, yes, used by people, I write to reach
people and I also write to reach myself. My work is emotional,
no question. And it is very bold work, no holds barred. I
am not the sort of artist people are fence sitters about. People
either like my work, or they don’t. No in-betweens.
home is an art installation. Are you a work of art too, or
do you just inhabit the place? Do you find you behave differently,
inhabiting a work of art? You know, I have always felt that
being in a museum, that to be immersed in an installation, in certain
galleries, was a kind of like being in church. And I think
it’s that way for cave art, too. The words that come
to mind are transformative,
generative. . . .
yes, my home is an art installation, but I did not know it was, until
the press told me, and that was recent. Up until then, it was
my personal expression in my home, my special environment I made
in which to raise my children. It was conceived as a creative
wonderland for their little souls to be nurtured and supported, a
place where their imaginations could be unfettered. But what
I did not factor in, was how it would do the same for me, too, as
we lived out our lives here.
would not say that I am a work of art, a work in progress, surely. I
used to dress brighter and bolder, but as I have gotten older, I
have changed my look and I am going a bit more toned down, but I
would have to stop short of the word classic. It is not that
I behave differently, perhaps I can’t really answer that question,
not sure, have to think about it. But definitely, there is
a conversation in the place which I made, that belongs to itself. What
happens is when people enter the space they begin to interact with
the environment and it creates a feeling of excitement, but one of
peace as well. It is like an amazing grace. So I do not
see it as being church like or referential, but, yes, I cannot deny
it, your words, transformative, generative. This space gives
back to me. And it has given back to me in many ways, one of
them being the conversations that have been sparked with friends
and acquaintances when they are here with me, with my family. You
have to understand that I made a special home for my children, that
was my simple goal. There was no grand scheme, no plan to make
something that would interest the press. I was a mom making
a nest for my children, and in the process I came to myself as an
artist, in a really big and delightful way. So that is my story.
influences, outside the world of art, and I’m thinking of
literature, psychology, philosophy, feminism, and
religion also, if you are inclined to go deeper into that, what
were/are the influences that have informed your perspective, as
a person, as the creative person that you are? In particular,
were you ever introduced to the psychology of C. G. Jung and to
his theory of dreams and their interpretation? Are you a “feminist” (is
that one of your “soapboxes”?), and if so, in what
sense? What motivates you as a creative person, you seem
to have been, and to be, remarkably self-motivated (and certainly
by your love for your family).
terms of my influences, I have to harken back to my childhood and
the way in which I was raised. I believe the deepest roots
reside there, certainly with how I express myself and especially
the topics of my work. I come from a creative DIY family and
we had that can do attitude coupled with a belief in the miracles
a hand can fashion. I was steeped in the tradition of making
something your own by making it yourself. My father was a minister
and we didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a lot of kids
and it seems we were always making stuff and entertaining ourselves
with different art projects. All our food was made from scratch
and we produced both utilitarian objects and extra items, like holiday
cards and Christmas ornaments.
childhood was a lot about doing and coming from a religious background,
there was an emphasis on alleviating other people’s suffering
and not so much about taking our emotional temperature as a family,
or as individuals. That often happens where the parents are
public figures or in the helping professions. They are out
tending and saving the world, but the kids just want a normal mom
and dad at home. Coming from a childhood lacking in emotional
acknowledgement, my adult focus is on emotional expression through
doing and making. Most of my artwork is about my emotional
life, relationships and the fragility of our human connections.
seeking to express through my artwork is tied to the religious experience
in my childhood. Referencing Bible verses, hymns, or even a
sermon in my work is a meaningful way I touch my religion and it
is important to me, that it is there, that I reference God. My
focus is still attached to alleviation of suffering, but I include
myself in the circle of others.
childhood roots are deep and include literature, religion and feminism
more than psychology and philosophy. Considering my soapboxes,
it’s pretty much a no brainer that oppression of anyone is
bad for everyone. We should all have equal rights, equal pay,
access to the same health care, etc.
am motivated to create a safe place, where we can feel our full range
of emotions and therefore feel whole. By accepting our opposites,
we can achieve peace, if only for brief periods of time.
those influences directly to do with art? The artists, styles,
movements, periods that have most made their impression on you
and on your art and that most inspire you to make art? And
your poetry? Who do you read today? Who made you want
to be a poet (to be an artist)?
don’t read much poetry. I’m in a writing group
and we read and critique each other’s work, so that’s
who I’m reading on a regular basis. I’m in a book
club, and I read a book a month and I always read The New Yorker, but
not the poetry! I’ve never understood most of it and
I don’t want to work so hard to understand what I’m reading. I
am very much a person who makes stuff, without having spent a lot
of time studying.
to my childhood, my parents always read to us as children, classic
children’s books, The Pooh stories, Babar, The
Madeline stories, and Charlotte’s Web. There
was a reverence in my family for literature and words. We were
always doing word play at my house and every year my mother wrote
a rhyming Christmas letter in which she detailed our families’ activities. Sometimes
these were parodies of classic pieces, mainly children’s works. She
and my father wrote poems for it and she would insert pieces we kids
had written during the year. My mother was clever as a writer,
especially with her rhyme schemes, but my father had the true gift
I believe, both in prose and in poetry. I use my writing in
the same way as I do my visual work. It is an expression of
emotional states and of relationships. An example is when I
began to write in earnest in my mid-twenties, after a failed romance. That’s
when my writing began to be expressive.
terms of the visual arts, what excites me is seeing that which I
have not seen before. I want to see the new and the different.
does it mean, to you, to one, to be taken seriously as an artist? Firstly,
of course, by the art establishment, the star-making machinery,
the press, but to be taken seriously by your fellow artists and
perhaps most importantly by yourself? Have you ever had an “obscure” period,
where you feel your art, your poetry can never be understood, can
never, will never, reach anybody, not even you yourself? A
period of alienation? But if a prayer is obscure, then it
doesn’t work as a prayer, does it?
is a tough one to answer. I did not come to my visual art until
I was an older person and I can see myself in my work, as I progressed
as an artist and as a person. There is a balance between hubris
and shy and retiring I seek. I don’t want to retreat,
nor beat my chest in public; it is a normal speaking voice I desire. I
couldn’t sign my first works, I couldn’t take public
ownership of them. Later, I could permit myself to affix my
first name to my pieces, but was not ready to claim full ownership
of them, nor of myself. Once I could sign my full name to my
work, I began to understand the implications of lacking a name and
what it takes to claim it. In order to be fully heard by myself
and others, I had to stake my claim in me, in a way that was honest,
not bombastic, nor fearful and retiring. The simple yet difficult
part is to be oneself. Once I reached that point within, I
believe my work became more accessible to others. There are
dark days when climbing the ladder of oneself. I think we have
this idea it is not us, but the rest of the world. The buck
stops here, leaving the house to circulate, but returning back to
knock on our door.
have messages to share, messages of hope, of redemption, of survival,
of love and acceptance of ourselves and each other. My prayers
are still sometimes obscure, but I believe there is a God who hears
us, though we cannot consistently listen.
the subject of “art therapy.” Art as therapy. Simplifying
to the extreme, art is a two-sided coin: On one side
is a product that excites admiration and pleasure because of its
beauty and the skill in its execution, while on the other side
there is the matter of the activity in producing such a product. It is
the matter of that activity that concerns us. We think
of therapy as treatment intended
to cure or relieve or heal—the implication is that something,
someone, is unwell, unsound, disordered. The
implication is that there is a lack, a lacking, a defect or deficiency. I
don’t think this need necessarily be the case. (Or
else, is there a need for disorder as a motive in creative activity?) What
I’m thinking of is the concentration, the relaxation, the
problem solving, adaptive responses, and what is involved in the
hand-eye-mind coordination. The tonic effect. The restorative
salutary effect. Please say, what is your understanding
of art as therapy? And, for the artist generally, am I engaging
in therapy when I write? Am I self-administering therapy? And
if so, what does this say about me?
myself, I think of most of my work as being therapeutic, as the majority
of my expressions revolve around working through emotional states
or situations. My themes are silence, tears, family relationships,
difficult loves and how we treat each other as people, in general. All
of this is placed under the umbrella of how we are universally imperfect. Other
artists may focus on the environment, lost Indian tribes, or our
relationship with food, etc., but mine is all about feelings and
relationships. Examples in my work are, “The Silence
of Love And Families,” “The Where And The How Left You
And Your Silence,” and “The Tree And Sea of Tears… .”
my collage work has the same aspect, though not in what I am saying
with it. It is more in the doing of it. The doing of
it requires me to empty my mind and not think. I call it “Mindless
Collage” because I don’t have to think, I just do and
the cutting and pasting takes me to a different place, probably what
you are describing as “the tonic, restorative and salutary
effect.” I cannot speak for other artists, but I think
if one uses their work as a tool of self-exploration, then their
work is indeed therapeutic.
the majority of people in psychotherapy can be classified as the “walking
wounded.” They are not ill, unwell, or disordered, but
they have a desire to feel better and to move beyond their childhood
traumas. We all learn behaviors as children, with all of us
trying to adapt to what we did not receive, with greater and lesser
degrees of success. We live lives where we make the same mistakes
over and over again, stuck in the hamster wheel with no relief. What
we yearn for is a return to where we started, to a place where our
lives were not affected by the agenda of others.
art, experiencing art can help us as we navigate our own seas, but
I don’t necessarily feel art can heal. To have insight
and knowledge is a great thing, and we can use our art to explore
that, but I believe we need more than art, as I believe we need more
than religion, to help us climb to a more peaceful route. To
have insight is the first step, but that in and of itself is not
enough to heal. How nice if it were that easy. Art, like
religion, can nurture us and help sustain us, but I believe we need
more than that to bring about lasting change within.
depends on what one is writing, whether or not it is self-administered
therapy. The writing may be the telling of your story, or it
may be someone else’s story related to your own, or the writer
may be exercising all of their skills and it is not therapy at all. Certainly
it is the art of writing, the art of telling a story, the discipline
of doing the work, and the studying that has led to the ability of
the writer. It is the satisfaction of completing a job and
knowing that it is your own unique expression, all of those things,
but I’m not sure that adds up to a therapeutic experience.
did you meet Andy Warhol? Was he at all familiar with your
designs? Do you still have the piece, the footstool, he gave
you? Is that the “Heywood Wakefield”? (—I
have to tell you my single close encounter with Andy Warhol: It
was at a James Taylor concert. I’m not sure the venue—I
think it was Town Hall on 43rd. He was touring with the Dad
Loves His Work album (so this was about 1981, Andy Warhol passed
in 1987). I left my date to go to the bar to get drinks and
as I was standing at the bar getting the drinks the song “Up
on the Roof” started playing and I said I
love this song and from right next to me a voice said I
do too and I turned and it was Andy Warhol! And I thought, It’s
Andy Warhol! I didn’t say anything I was just smiling
and in my motion I made eye contact with him and I thought, That’s
so cool! Andy Warhol said I do too! So that’s
my single close encounter with Andy Warhol.)
Wakefield by Apryl Miller, 1998
Wakefield vintage wooden frame, vintage fabrics
21” x 21”)
question and the next, wherein you reference how I conceptualize
my work, how there is poetry in the titles, how my work means, to
see with new eyes, are
closely tied. All is considered in my pieces, imagination,
fabrics, veiling and unveiling, titles, and back stories. It
is up to each of us, as the artist, to decide how far to go with
our truth. When I do poetry readings (depending upon the type
of work I am presenting, though all the work is mine), there sometimes
comes a point, when I have to give a disclaimer, and I say, “I
found this one day on the sidewalk and I have no idea who wrote it.”
while being interviewed for a Swedish art magazine, I was asked about
stories involving Alan Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and Andy Warhol. The
journalist could not recall her source, and I, not wishing my art
to be about them, but about me, told her that there are such things
as urban legends. And, as she pressed me further, I invoked
the same statement. These were questions involving fabrics
and trinkets, items I make my art with. In spite of the source
of my materials, it is not about their provenance, but about the
artistry of what I do and the price should not be influenced by my
material’s source. Some of my work is composed of objects
given to me by the nocturnal creatures and the feather covered dragon
that live in my studio. Other pieces are made from treasures
brought to me by the Flying Monkeys, when they stopped by my studio
in midflight, to refuel on plastic bananas and coconuts. Some
works are composed of beads plucked from trees, which grow in the
grove of the groove of Apryl Millerness. Other items were given
to me by Timothy Leary, as he looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t
do anything I would do.” And I didn’t.
idea of “Sculpture Masquerading as Furniture.” Did
this just organically come into being,—that is to say, did
it just suggest itself to you as you were working? Your titles,
they are like stories—how
you conceptualize your works!—they seem infused with
so much spirit and history:
Silence of Love and Families.” “Evolution from
the Past from which We Evolved.” “Cry Me a Circle”—is
that barbed wire? “The Sun Sprouts With A Back
that title is a little poem!
the trims, even, they are in themselves poetic, aren’t
they? I’m beginning to see the practice, the
art, of upholstery in a whole new light! I think if something
bears the name Apryl Miller—that is what it means, to
see with new eyes.
titles can be very much like stories. Dreaming up titles can
be time consuming, like any sort of writing, but I love to do it
and especially love it when the title arrives on my door step, of
its own volition. “Sculpture Masquerading as Furniture” arrived
in that way. Initially I was trying to market them as furniture
pieces, but after a time I realized they transcend furniture, because
of the elements I interject, including the concepts behind them. They
reside in what I call a “Teeter,” meaning they are like
a see-saw in the park, sliding back and forth between art and design. They
may come close to resting in one camp or the other, but they never
do, as they are made to balance and hover between the two worlds. Often
times there is a title, as in “Cry Me a Circle” and there
is an explanatory text:
1970’s Italian frame accented with dangling plastic barbed
wire, “LOVE” trim and padded circles. There are
full circles that pop out of the flat surface of the chair. Don’t
cry me a river, who knows where it flows? Cry me a circle and
all is contained, tracks of tears revolve in a circle.”
Me A Circle” detail
are stories told through these pieces and they begin with the use
of vintage garment fabrics instead of upholstery fabrics. My
intention is to strip away barriers between ourselves and the objects. The
fabrics have lived before making my acquaintance, and some of them
are older than I am. The pieces are rendered more intimate
by being covered with fabric that was intended to clothe the body. I
use some furniture trims, but mainly I use trims that were made for
garments. They are not made in traditional upholstery style,
but rather, employing dressmaking techniques. It is as if I
am clothing a body that is to be used by another body, but it is
not really using, it is more of a sharing. There is an intimacy
between us and in a way, I see these pieces as a metaphor for life. They
present to us the unknown, in the sense that they are not expected
seating pieces. They invite us to be with them and to participate
in their conversation. These are some of the reasons they transcend
our ideas of furniture. And, yes, everything is poetic, everything
is considered, there are intimate connections to all of the materials
can visit your website and we can take a tour on Flickr, but I
wonder, how can we see your works in person, are you showing anywhere,
is anyone carrying you? Anyone interested in purchasing,
can they contact you directly?
arrange a studio visit, please contact me directly. My studio
space is located in Long Island City. Occasionally I will have
pieces in shows, and I am currently waiting to hear from some shows
I have applied to. I offer an artist’s talk and tour
of my living space and the concepts behind it, for a fee. If
you have an interest, you may email
me for details and to get on my mailing list.
you, Apryl Miller.
Copyright © 2014
Apryl Miller & Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino
Miller is online at AprylMiller.com