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Archive for December 7th, 2020



Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

― Clare Boothe Luce



This post ran a few years back on this same date, December 7. Every time I come across this entry while scrolling through older posts it stops me cold. The purity of the color, the clarity, the compositions and the absolute simplicity, along with the sophistication mentioned by Claire Boothe Luce above, of it all just capture me wholly. It just makes me feel content and satisfied as a human.

But at the same time, as an artist, it also makes me feel discontented and a bit unsatisfied because it stirs my creative juices, reminds me that I haven’t yet reached that same feeling of contentment and happiness that I know is potentially there within my own work. 

That’s the yardstick I use when looking at the work of other artists– how much it makes me want to work even harder. And the work of Lillian May Miller does just that. Take a look.



 

I came across the work of Lilian May Miller only recently and was instantly infatuated with her beautiful woodblock prints. The colors and compositions just ring true for me and they seem to create a bridge between the traditional and the modern forms of the woodblock art form. I am showing quite a few of her pieces here but I could easily show many dozens more.

Miller was an interesting person as well. She was born in Tokyo in 1895 to American parents, her father a diplomat. She was enrolled in the atelier of a famed Japanese printmaker at the age of 9 and had her first exhibit at the age of 14. She shuttled back and forth between Japan and  and the United States  (where she graduated from Vassar) throughout her life, including considerable time spent in Korea when her father was stationed there for the State Department.

She saw herself as an envoy or messenger between the cultures of the East and the West. When in Japan, she dressed in a uniquely Western fashion, wearing ties and sport jackets and sporting a cropped haircut. When she made presentation back in the States, she often did so wearing traditional Japanese kimonos.

Miller achieved a degree of recognition for her work in the years leading up to World War II. However, she was devastated by the Japanese attack –which, by the way, occurred on this date in 1941– feeling that it was a personal betrayal of her love for that country. She worked for a counter propaganda unit of the Navy in 1942 until a large malignant tumor resulting from abdominal cancer was found.

She died in January of 1943 at the age of 47.

Her work and her story has slid somewhat into the ashes of art history. But much of her work remains and it doesn’t take much to see the brilliance of it at its best. It will pull its way back to light sometime soon.

This is a very quick and incomplete synopsis of her life. There was recently a more complete article on Miller on the Atlas Obscura site recently that you can read by clicking here. There is also a book, Between Two Worlds, that details her life and work.

For now, enjoy these images.

 

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