How many pop icons can dance on the tip of a paintbrush? Greg Miller’s high-gloss acrylic and collaged works on paper and panel might prompt this question, considering the numerous designs he paints on both canvases and surfboards.
This week’s pun-titled cover “American Pop” shows how Miller delights in merging memorabilia in a way that references pop art, yet goes beyond the slick, illustrative or gimmicky elements often associated with it. He presses and paints over bits and pieces from decades-old pop materials—literature, movie posters, pulp magazines, typography, text from ads, snippets of products, comic books, billboards. He composes them and then coats them over with surfboard resin, sometimes also gouging out sections or dripping on paint for added textural effects.
The work is labor intensive. Nostalgia is typically not this complex or selective. His technique—in regard to his hand-painted one-of-a-kind vintage surfboards—is “to build up sort of an abstract history…paintings on top of paintings on top of paintings.” It serves for his large canvases as well.
What brought you from California to the East End, to be the featured artist at John Healey’s surf shop gallery on Main Street in Sag Harbor?
The boards I have at the gallery are often work I donate to various charities. My studio in Springs is for my painting. My wife and I moved out last year. We fell I love with the area—its history, agriculture, the Shinnecock, Jackson Pollock’s house nearby. I’m close to the ocean but it’s different from California which is now a big beach-bike scene, compared with Springs. I find that out here I’ve slowed down in a good way. I work more intensely, do more collage, assemble more integral elements, though I’m still sort of like a mad scientist, collecting all kinds of artifacts from the past.
About 10 years ago you “admitted” to being a pop artist, though discerning viewers might likely refer to you as a “pop abstractionist” because of the greater intricacy and depth of your paintings. Why “admitted?”
Like many artists’ careers, there are periods—for me, there was film, photography, architecture—but one day my wife said, “why not say who you are?” Central to my idea of pop art is being an American artist, celebrating positive things about our history and culture. My father was a WWII vet, and one day I found a bunch of his matchboxes and decided to paint them, but on a large scale, 5’ x 6’, translating them from objects into art.
Your Artist Statement notes that you construct and deconstruct, “exploring the contradiction, ambiguity, and truth between urban streetscape and history.” Could you elaborate?
I’m influenced by the changing culture around me, sometimes reflected as signage, written language, by the contrast between the larger world in America now and the way things used to be. Take Venice [CA], which 25 years ago was pretty empty. Now I see an announcement on the side of a building for a tire shop that’s no longer there and over that other lettering, other businesses. Everything changes. That’s why I like to use surfboard resin because it fossilizes the collages, images, painting, ironically preserving the history of change.
Greg Miller’s surfboards can be seen at Surfari Crossroads Gallery in Sag Harbor, his paintings at the Caldwell Snyder Gallery in San Francisco and the Bill Turner Gallery in Santa Monica. His work is also in numerous public and private collections and museums. gmillerstudio.com.