Liz Miller, 2020 McKnight Fiber Artist Fellow
In the pre COVID-19 world, Liz Miller was an artist used to making a quick trip to a store to browse for items that could be utilized in her newest artistic creations. “Since we should not be out and about these days, I am pulling out everything I have collected in my studio to see what can be put to use,” Liz says. “Lately I have been fascinated by pieces of sheet metal that have a pattern embedded in them. I am weaving paracord through them, kind of like a cross stitch. I am using them as armatures or bases to create new structures.”
“I’m using things that I have collected for a while,” Liz adds. “In the series I am doing now, I am integrating the items I am discovering in my studio into my new work. Before we had to shelter in place, I was just too busy to pay attention to what I had. I view this as a new form of artist residency, and I’m enjoying creating in different ways.”
Liz Miller serves as professor of installation & drawing at Minnesota State University Mankato, and she and Eun-Kyung Suh (a Korean-born, Duluth-based textile installation artists) have the distinction of being the first two recipients of the new 2020 McKnight Fellowships for Fiber Artists, administered through Textile Center on behalf of the McKnight Foundation.
Will some of her works created during the COVID-19 home residency be part of her McKnight exhibition at Textile Center early in 2021?
“They could possibly make it into the McKnight exhibition,” Liz says. “I am so grateful for the recognition and for the McKnight award. But I also feel pressure to have the exhibition feature my very best work. Works I am making now could need more time to resolve. We’ll see. I tend to do my best creative work when I am not pressuring myself.”
Just before the shelter in place orders were issued in Denver, Liz Miller installed her show Structural Paradigms at the David R. Smith Gallery. “Denver shut down at 5 pm the day I installed the show,” Liz says. With Minnesota soon to have its own shelter in place order, Liz drove to Denver and back in the span of 24 hours. The show was to open March 27 and run through May 2. (The show is currently available online: davidbsmithgallery.com/exhibit/show/liz-miller-2020.)
“Laborious construction and an adept compositional sense are the hallmarks of Liz Miller’s quasi-architectural works, effortlessly giving rise to awe and curiosity,” according to a press release issued by the David R. Smith Gallery. “In her sculptural wall works, Miller’s coiled and bound loops of patterned cords and ropes tumble in, out, and over each other in harmonious disarray. As is indicative of Miller’s overall practice, fastidious attention to detail and an artist’s level of obsession bring authority and transformative power to otherwise mundane materials.
“Miller aligns her work in the historical context of rope and knotting across cultures throughout history, a practice often born of both necessity and aesthetics,” the gallery press release adds. “Through the metaphor of knotted rope, works actively explore the fallibility of infrastructure and the precariousness of perception. As zip ties wind their way through loopholes and around winding corkscrews of speckled cord, bundled masses dangle nearby. Miller’s meticulously crafted fiber networks allude to tangled cityscapes, revealing the humor and chaos of underlying systems.”
“These past few weeks I have been working on larger works that I started making in 2020,” says Liz. “Structural Malaise is a series I am working on. I like to explore Imperfect structures that deviate from the plan I originally had in place. I approach my work with a sense of humor.”
“I’m working on a larger work – eight by seven feet,” Liz adds, “and I am enjoying making components for that. It’s been helpful to have more time in the studio, and to be able to work slowly so that I can see where I want a piece to go.”