February 15, 2004

Millei Studio

John Millei sent me a pic of his recent work, and I thought I would share it with my studio audience. Visits to John's place (in Los Angeles) is a such special treat in that after such a visit, I get this overwhelming impulse to to back to work in my own studio. That can't be said about too many other artist-studio visits.

What I see when I look at this image is alot of stuff just out of the frame. To the right, you can see a wall of post cards. John has thumbtacked his favorite things here, and if you take a second look at them, you might realise that nothing is casual about what he has up on the wall.

John is an autodidact. A maverick, he didn't go to school, he didn't travel the rut worn so deep by the minions of the art system (I raise my hand with lowered head to implicate myself in this too.). Against this, consider that he teaches at two universities: ArtCenter and Claremont (John was a saving grace to me as an instructor there, in addition to Michael Brewster, a great artist who shapes sound as sculpture), which is an indication of his success in a self administered education. This wall is evidence of his self directed training. He knows art in a more intimate way that what one would get via the slide show-art text lectures. When I talk to him about paintings, I get this sense that he is seeing a hell of a lot more than the average bear. He has this amazing visual memory. John has this library at home. It's in a room that's dedicated to it, with a couch and table. He knows every single book (i.e. they are not just for show, or trophies), and in conversation there, he is constantly pulling books out to make his points, laying them out on the table and floor. His teachers are artists, and he learns from their direct example.

Further to the right and up the stairs is an open loft. This is where he has a drawing studio. More books, a flat file and table laid with piles of drawings. Paintings on paper. All the work here is real, invested and intense. Usually, it is another track of inquiry, separate from what is on the main floor of the studio.

Down the stairs, and tucked to the side are usually a second body of paintings, stacked so that he can pull them out easily. This is his B-side main floor entreprise, another body of work moving in parallel with those big paintings you see above.

If you're lucky to visit his home, you might see his little studio set in a spare bedroom. Wood floors, easel, table, and maybe fifty to sixty smaller canvases stacked everywhere (no kidding, they were stacked against the walls, in the closet). In the last visit, he was investigating a track on Giotto, abstracted into forms moving stately across the canvas. He lit up during a trip to Italy and this was the result. Each piece was compelling and invested. This was the stuff he did in the margins of his day.

Posted by Dennis at February 15, 2004 7:28 AM

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