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Gallery Visit – Ryan Peter Miller

LOCATION: Phoenix, Arizona (Modified Gallery)

Lisa Marie Sipe and I met up with Ryan Peter Miller at his show at The Modified Arts Gallery. Ryan was just getting ready for a move to his new home in Chicago, so, we felt lucky that he took the time to give us a private viewing at this downtown Phoenix gallery. We went off hours and the air conditioner was off. Even though we were all drenched in sweat, we were not in a hurry to leave as the work was very exciting.

We have been fans of his work since we all met as members of the Eye Lounge Cooperative. Ryan likes to use the tools that create his work to be part of the art. For example, in his Excavation series he carves out of layers of paint, so the paint (as the title suggests) is excavated, and the colors below the top layer are exposed. His suggested dinosaurs are then exposed using the hidden colors. Through his career, Ryan is always exploring his medium with humor, but his art is not a joke, but a thoughtful process of discovery.

In the drawing series Mark Making, Ryan portrays famous celebrities with the name Mark. The pun is further explored by placing these portraits against the backdrop of a couple in a compromising positions. Suggesting that they are making Mark? Each drawing (large and small) are produced using a unique “mark-making”, crosshatch, circles, scribbles, etc. All the works are funny, clever, and a bit uncomfortable (in a good way).

Below is our interview with Ryan.

Please note that some of the artwork shown contains art of a sexual nature, and might be unsuitable for younger viewers.

Above and below: Ryan Peter Miller and work from his “Excavation” series.

Above: Closeup, side view of Excavation: Tyranosaurus — Carved Latex on MDF

(CS): What inspires you?

Ryan Peter Miller: My sources of inspiration have always been broad and elusive. I would say I am inspired by my own process; my wife, Julie’s, perspective; stand-up comedians (Louis C.K., Mark Marin, Mike DeStefano); the love for and of my pets; food. I really do avoid actively looking at art. I want to know that my ideas are my own, and do not become hack.

Do you remember when you wanted to be an artist?

I drew from a really early age. I mostly drew hybrid animals like sharks with crab claws, or snakes with wings. I also was obsessed with Legos. I remember getting a Lego set from my friends for my 14th birthday. I was torn because while I still loved the creative aspect making things out of Legos, I was definitely too old to be getting toys for my birthday.

I took as many art classes that I could all through high school and knew I wanted to be involved in art in college as well. During my first semester at University of Georgia I firmly committed myself to the idea of being an artist. It has always been easy for me to make that commitment, because my parents have always been so supportive. My father teaches graphic design and my mother works in the field of interior design.

Are their any particular influences or inspiration for your work?

Jasper Johns and Marcel Duchamp are my greatest art influences. I make work with them in mind. I aspire to have my work be a balance of the simplicity, humor, self-effacement, and intellect that the two so beautifully exacted.

Any books inspire you?

Diet for a New America, an expose on American food culture by John Robbins (son of ice cream mogul Baskin Robbins), was the most influential book on my art practice; it inspired years of work. It doesn’t influence my current body of work, but I still marvel at how profoundly it impacted me at the time.

What are thinking about now?

I am thinking about food, specifically all food.

Alright then, what are you working on?

I am working on redefining my studio practice. I used to make whatever came to mind, I would have 10 pieces in process at once. Not all were hits, but the organic nature of the process was fulfilling. Recently, I have been more exacting in my practice, refining an idea several times before getting into the studio to make the final product. While this is a more efficient use of my time, I feel that it has eliminated the happy accidents that generate the element of surprise. I want to shoot first and ask questions later. I don’t mind the mistakes, but allowing for mistakes means I need to plan for more time in the studio.

What’s next for you?

I am reworking a series of paintings that were titled “Painting’s Dirty Underbelly.” The works consist of layered stalactites of latex paint collecting off the side of small square panels. The pieces were inspired by the residual process from my Excavation Series. While the pieces were already shown, I was not satisfied with their final iteration. The new configuration will have a grid of holes allowing a pattern of paint stalactites built across the face of the surface. I hope the result is worth the risk of losing some “finished” work.

Above and below: Mark Making series of drawings at the Modified Arts Gallery.


  1. […] I also have a group show coming up at Southern Oregon University with former Eye Lounge members Ryan Peter Miller and Marco Rosichelli, so I’m definitely going to stay busy. More information: […]