Tom Miller

 National Aquarium in Baltimore

LE Serigraph

# 4 of 75 

signed and titled by the artist

image area approx 29" wide x 13" high

matted size approx 36" wide x 20" high
excellent condition. 


Delightful scene celebrating the Baltimore Aquarium, rendered using simplified forms, geometric shapes, and bright primary and secondary colors.  The scene is alive with animals and visitors, and refines the joyful experience of a visit to the aquarium into a single image.

Professionally matted in acid free white rag matt.

Tom Miller's work flies in the face of many artistic conventions, challenging artistic hierarchies by which "fine art" is deemed superior and more noble than the "decorative arts."  It defies the limitations of the conventional deployment of illusionary space on any two-dimensional surface.  It resuscitates a range of imagery associated with kitsch at best, and racial stereotyping at worse.  

     Tom Miller has invented a witty synthesis of black popular imagery and tropical kitsch with a skillful sense of design that is grounded in the Art Deco style of the 1920s and 30s.  Although Miller has coined the term "Afro-Deco" to describe this snappy  decorative style, it would be just as apropos in Miami of the 1950s.  In his artistic universe Miller combines Aunt Jemimas with pink flamingos, wildly grinning red lips and white teeth, with birds, palm trees and fruits (most particularly the ubiquitous watermelon).  Miller once noted that his work was about "'s not detached, it's not like painting a bowl of fruit...If I'm painting images of black people, I'm painting my sister or my mother or Big Al..."  It is this sense of involvement with his subject matter that has allowed Miller to transmogrify the label "decorative," and transcend the pejorative of stereotyping in his work.

     The fact that Miller feels comfortable with using popular and stereotypical images associated with African Americans in this country also indicates the shift in attitude on the part of many African Americans towards that imagery.  Miller creates at a point in time when African American participation in the collecting and marketing of black memorabilia has greatly expanded.  Miller's bold, new iconographic system also hearkens to well-established African decorative programs.  We can discern a comparable use of flat color shapes that are comparable to the textile designs from Dahomey, and we can then extend that anaology to quilt-making on this side of the Atlantic.  But most of all, perhaps, we must look to the 18th century Frensh ebeniste, as well as 19th century African American craftsmen such as Thomas Day of Milton, North Carolina and Dutrevil Barjon of New Orleans.

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