Artist spotlight: Danielle Rae Miller
One of POLYCHROME’s longest standing artists, Danielle Miller, lives and works in Albuquerque, NM. She is known for her beautiful and intricate nature-inspired pieces. Danielle sat down with us to tell us about her artwork, inspirations, and upcoming exhibit.
Take a look through some of gorgeous exclusive prints Danielle has in our collection from left to right :
Thea: How early on in your childhood did you decide to become an artist?
Danielle: Really early! I mean, I don't know that it was a decision... It seems like something that's sort of always been. Some of my earliest memories involve artsy things. There was an easel in a garden in summer, where I used finger paints, and a dance class where the teacher told us to pretend to walk through peanut butter...
Danielle's piece below "Hungering" in ceramic
Thea: What school did you attend, or where did you first start to train for your art career? Tell us a bit about your experience - what was your area of study?
Danielle: I started in high school. I had two amazing art teachers at Loveland High School (Colorado), who taught me so much, and who helped me build a portfolio to apply to art schools. I have only ever pulled one all-nighter, and that was in high school when I was working on my portfolio. That portfolio got me to RISD, where I met you, dear Thea. You and I were both sophomores in the Apparel program, but that summer, I realized I wasn't interested in the fashion industry, so I transferred to Printmaking, and finished my degree there. A couple years after RISD, I went to grad school at the University of New Mexico, and got my MFA in Printmaking.
Thea: What is a typical day of work for you?
Danielle: I get up early, sometimes before dawn. I make myself a cup of strong black tea with milk, feed my menagerie of pets, and go out to the studio. On a good day, and if I don't have to go teach, or drive my almost-teenager somewhere, I'll work into the early afternoon, and then take my dogs for a walk in the Bosque (a wooded area around the Rio Grande river) near my house.
Danielle working on a new piece for her upcoming exhibit:
Thea: What is inspiring to you? What do you do when you feel "blocked" creatively - how do you get unstuck?
Danielle: I'm inspired by so many things. Patterns in nature - leaves and plants and rocks on the forest floor; tree branches, and the negative spaces of blue sky between them. Yesterday, on a walk, I found an abandoned wild honeycomb at the base of an old cottonwood tree. I also love botanical illustrations, and wallpaper patterns. Cabinets of curiosity (I loved the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab at RISD). While I have experienced many creative "blocks", I don't tend to think of it as blockage anymore...I think of it as a sort of break, a resting period, between bodies of work. So I use the time to play. I try to pay attention to what feels good, what I feel drawn to, and I just keep moving toward the things that make me curious. In the last one I had, I was obsessed with blue color fields, and was making ceramic bowls. I started decorating the bowls with blue patterns, sort of like Delftware, but all my own doodling. Then started doing the line-work--doodling--on paper. And that eventually led me to the body of work I'm making now.
Thea: I know you teach at Central New Mexico Community College and the Institute of American Indian Arts. How does being a teacher of other creatives fuel your own work ?
Danielle: I feel so grateful to teach at the college level! It's pretty amazing that I get to spend my work days in conversations about something I love (art), with people who are interested in learning about it! (at least they mostly pretend to be -- Ha!). While there isn't always a direct correlation between what I teach and what I make, it's such an immersive experience. Sometimes it feels like I live my life in an art bubble.
Thea: What individuals, artists, mentors, etc do you consider to be instrumental in your development as a professional artist?
Danielle: My parents, who let me draw and daydream; Connie Einfalt -- my high school art teacher; Lee Dejasu, at RISD -- the most extraordinary teacher I've EVER known; Lydia Madrid and Jose Rodriquez, wonderful teachers I had at UNM who were amazingly supportive of my MFA thesis work; an amazing community of artists and arts workers who live in the Albuquerque area -- this is such a great place to be. All the women artists who came before me, and paved the way for me to live the life I do....
Thea: You are living in New Mexico. Can you describe how that affects your work?
Danielle: I don't know if I can describe exactly how, but the huge skies out here are really powerful and important for me. When I lived on the East Coast, I loved so many things, but the huge open spaces of the West really call to me.
Thea: Can you give us some inside scoop as to what fashion trends you have been noticing in your own neighborhood?
Danielle: Ha! we're so far from the major urban areas...but I see a lot of thick black framed "nerd" glasses, white t-shirts and high-waisted jeans.
Thea: If you had to pick 3 print trends to watch for in 2018, what would they be? Danielle:
I know its been going for awhile, but I think it will continue through 2018: realistic nature prints, with all kinds of life, like botanical illustrations, but layered and multiplied into print designs
Clean white backgrounds with smaller and very uneven pops of line or color, but mostly white; very minimal
Wood grain and plaid (together)
Thea: If you could not be an artist for some reason, what other profession would you have chosen?
Danielle: Maybe a writer? I love stories so much. I read a lot, and have a great appreciation for real (on paper) books.
Thea: You have been exhibiting your work quite a bit recently! Can you give us an idea of what it is like in the week or so leading up to a show opening? What is your general feeling the night of the opening? What's it like to get back to work in the studio right after a big show?
Danielle: Ha! I'm in the exhibition countdown right now!!!! I'm super focused on finishing up one last drawing. The gallerist will come to look at the work soon, and choose specifically what will go into the show. I'll spend the week after her visit framing the drawings, and will deliver the work to the gallery the week before it opens, for installation. The night of the opening, I am usually very happy and excited. Opening receptions feel to me like a little party we throw for the work -- a celebration. I like to take a break, if I can, after the intense push of work to prepare for a show. Sort of absorb that body of work, and open up to what I want to focus on next.
Thea: Do you have any upcoming shows where people can go to see your work? How about some online sources?
Danielle: Yes! as mentioned above, I have a show coming up at Central Features Contemporary in Albuquerque, NM; The exhibition opens March 31, and will be up through May 19.
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Thea: Thank you for sharing that! It's wonderful to find out what a specific body of work is inspired by. Also, thank you so much for spending some time with us today and giving us a chance to hear about all the creative things you have been up to.
Want to see some more of Danielle's work?
Check out her website and her upcoming exhibit!
Danielle Miller is a visual artist based in Albuquerque, NM. She works in a wide variety of mediums including ink, ceramics, and installation works. In addition to showing her work throughout the US, Danielle also teaches at various colleges in New Mexico.