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Meet Trailblazer Michelle AM Miller

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle AM Miller.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Michelle. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was always going to be an artist but my path was a bit circuitous. My art is rooted in personal history: My mother is Nicaraguan born of Miskito Indian and European-American descent and my father is a chemist originally from Alabama. I was born in Gainesville. My parents settled in West Palm Beach to raise kids and to start their environmental testing laboratory. They are what I call extreme plant collectors and while my own plant cemetery speaks to an apparent lack of a green thumb gene, my family life nurtured an inquisitive spirit and deep reverence for the natural world that manifest in my work.

After high school I earned my first degree in art history and spent a number of years in different cities trying to not be an artist – I did not know anything about that trajectory and gave in to voices that said I needed a traditional career. Thankfully that didn’t work out. I was never satisfied with corporate settings and was always painting anyway, so I moved back to West Palm Beach to work for the family business and to focus on my art. Once I entered the painting program at Florida Atlantic University everything clicked into place and I have been a practicing studio artist ever since.

This January my first solo exhibition opened at IS Projects in Ft. Lauderdale and my second solo will open this March in West Palm Beach. It is beyond thrilling to be able to share my work with my South Florida community.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Definitely not and if it had been we would not be having this conversation. We know women often face incredible pressure – from within and without – to conform to some sort of standardized ideal that reinforces the status quo. It’s such garbage and can be most difficult when it comes from your immediate environment: family, friends, loved ones, co-workers, can all hold enormous sway over how we perceive the world and ourselves. The art world remains notoriously biased, and women are still underrepresented and undervalued across the field. I’d say find your own path, hone your instincts, pay attention, educate yourself, learn to think critically, challenge yourself, practice discipline, find mentors and surround yourself with people who are supportive but honest. Learn how to set and achieve your goals. Become a tireless advocate for yourself and your work but remember to give yourself recovery time.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I am a multidisciplinary artist who reimagines the landscape through painted works, prints, collages, drawings and installation. My current body of work features vivid, sculptural paintings that fuse traditional art materials with industrial by-products and transformed recycled matter. A related series of etchings and monotypes echoes my inventive abstractions of South Florida’s wild and designed green spaces using a distinct, hypersaturated palette. It was an absolute thrill to have my first solo exhibition open this January at IS Projects in Ft. Lauderdale. My second solo opens this March and will be in West Palm Beach. I am proud to have been included in select group exhibitions including “More Women Painting” at Design Sublime, Miami, “Nature Preserved” at the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, Lake Worth, and ”The Triumph of Detritus” at 1310 Gallery, Ft. Lauderdale. My work is featured in online and print publications including Oxford American, On View and on the cover of Coastlines magazine.

Do you have any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general? What has worked well for you?
When I joined the studio art program at FAU I was fortunate to find artist Carol Prusa whose work I admired. She was willing to become my first mentor and has provided invaluable advice and encouragement over the years. In fact, all of my professors and now my artist peers have been mentors in their own ways, some for longer periods of time than others. I genuinely enjoy talking to others about their own work or studio lives so that often translates into really great conversations. Networking is still challenging for me – I am an introvert and it does not come naturally – but I recognize this and I work hard to show up, be supportive of others and trust in the human capacity to make authentic connections.

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