Interview with Apryl Miller – Artist from NYC

Apryl Miller

Apryl Miller is an artist residing in New York. A lifelong poet, she discovered her love and talent for art later in life. Her work includes paintings, soft sculptures, installations, collage, furniture, and interior design. You can find out more about Apryl through her website, Facebook, Twitter, and her portfolio on Saatchi.

ExtraImaginary: Please give us a background of yourself and your journey with art.

Apryl Miller Dyl-ScanApryl Miller: I come from a large, creative, DIY family and though we were always doing different sorts of art projects, we were not gifted visually and we never thought of ourselves as artistic. My father was a minister and I remember as a small child going and helping the church ladies put together their beautiful, clever projects to sell at the yearly Christmas Fair.

When I had to paint or draw an image in art classes as a child, it was difficult for me. It seemed as if I was always expected to make tight, realistic images, when I am actually a loose, abstract artist. But I could not have known that then, and those childhood classes were not the place to experiment. It was in my home, with my family, working on projects together, that I felt a sense of mastery and direction. When I was in my early 40’s, I began to whisper to myself that I was an artist and as time went on, that whisper turned into a normal speaking voice.

As kids, we would make Halloween and Valentine’s Day cards on carbon paper and my mother would go to the school where she worked, to run them off for us, on the mimeograph machine. I have slides of my older brother and I, circa 1960, with our water colors out and the kitchen table arrayed with our Christmas card production. We were ahead of the times even then, not going for realistic images of The Mother and Christ Child, or Santa and his reindeer, but rather we wielded our brushes with an abstract passion.

On my route to becoming an artist, as an adult, I began to make collages for my daughter’s birthday parties. They began as simple, one page affairs and became elaborate three and four page productions, with holes cut out of them, all folded and taped together. The progression and my growth as a creative person can easily be seen in these pieces, as they move along the continuum from timid and near bashful, to brash and vibrant colors, turning their face as close to the sun as they can get.

ExtraImaginary: Your art is quite varied-you do sculptures, interior design, paintings, collage, installations amongst others. Tell us about each and how you choose a medium for a particular idea.

Apryl Miller ArtApryl Miller: Much like a folk artist, I begin a type of work out of necessity. I began making jewelry when I managed a woman’s clothing store and we needed accessories to accent our clothing. I began to make my sculpture masquerading as furniture when I needed intimate furniture shapes for my home. I began my collage work after I had children and I needed invitations for their parties. I had to make a home in which to raise my children, and so I created for them a creative incubator, filled with permanent installations. Much of my artistic life has come to pass as I have lived my life.

ExtraImaginary: You use a lot of bright colors with varied shapes and materials. However there is a sense of balance even with so much going on. How do you achieve this balance and is there a process behind it?

Apryl Miller ArtApryl Miller: My color use, though instinctual, follows a certain pattern and the end result is a sophisticated blend. My secret, is to put as many colors, shapes, and prints together as I possibly can, with the exception of colors I feel are too dark. I juxtapose and work backwards, putting together that which least belongs side by side. In the end, a peace arises from the cacophony of its origins.

It is the act of limiting colors that is a mistake. In the permanent installation that is my home, I have more than 150 paint colors on the walls alone. That does not include the colors of the objects I have placed in the environment. The result is a wonderful balance of energy and peace, in a sophisticated environment for a family. It is a space that invites the unusual conversation and creative thought.

My formula: Do not use primary colors, do not restrict the palette and make all the color combinations jarring and wrong. That’s what works.

ExtraImaginary: What tools and techniques do you use to create your art?

Apryl Miller - Peek A Boo Arriba 35x25x21 FabricApryl Miller: I don’t use a lot of technique, except when I work with pieces that are made with jewelry making skills and even those skills are modest. It’s about using a drill to cut holes in objects and then small hand tools to twist and cut wires, pretty basic stuff. For my Sculpture Masquerading as Furniture, I put together elaborate drawings of each plane of the frame and then I send these off to the upholsterer and cross my fingers.

I am largely self-taught and coming from my DIY background, I have a fearless creativity about me. I don’t know the rules and it doesn’t matter. I’m always free falling without a net and that is my comfort level.

ExtraImaginary: Where do your ideas come from? How do you go about choosing the tools for a project?

Apryl Miller ArtApryl Miller: I don’t really know where my ideas come from. My imagination is vivid and fertile and it is not that I have visions, but my mind can be bombarded with endless creative thought at times. I don’t always know who’s driving my bus. If I have a problem to solve, I go at it from the stand point that I want to see something I’ve never seen before, I seek the new. Then I may begin to look at current ideas and I will use those ideas as a jumping off place, or what I think of as, “The place of no.” If I do not know what I seek, I begin with the “No’s”, meaning, I check off on a list what I do not want, as I am looking at it and eventually, this process will lead me to discover what I do desire.

But, generally, in most of my work life, my ideas are effortless and they lead me to more unconventional expressions. Because I do not know what the rules are, my mind is unfettered and my creative thoughts are able to naturally flow. It is common for me to work on more than one piece at a time. I will array the pieces around me and contemplate them, while working on a single piece.

The tool choice for a project is solely driven by the project itself, unless I have to improvise in some way. As I had stated earlier, my tools are simple and few.

ExtraImaginary: Walk us through the process of creating your art. From first inspiration to final product.

Apryl Miller ArtApryl Miller: O.K. I am an availabalist, though not in the strictest sense, meaning that I often take what is around me to work with and I don’t necessarily make objects from scratch. When I make my collages, I put them on cardboard and shirt boxes from the laundry. I save cereal boxes and other brown cardboard for the same purpose. For my Sculpture Masquerading as Furniture, I find furniture frames that interest me and then I begin. I get stimulated by what objects say to me and I immediately begin to get ideas about what I can do with them. It has always been a common experience for me to look at an object and immediately see ways in which I would change it. I have spent most of my time this year with collage work, and then I moved to making some black and white drawings. When I am finished with those, I will go back to working with fiber, for the simple reason I have not for quite a while and I feel drawn in that direction. All of this is interspersed with my writings, both poetry and prose. As I am not expected by my career to stick to one type of work or another, I am free to move around between mediums as I see fit.

ExtraImaginary: How do you know when a piece is finished?

Apryl Miller: Ahhh. That oft asked question, so difficult to answer. It is a place that I come to inside myself, that tells me I am done.

ExtraImaginary: The style of your paintings is unusual. What are they about and how do you create them?

Apryl Miller - Hear Nothing EarsApryl Miller: Thank you for asking about my paintings. I began them 7 years ago and I worked on three or four of them and then I stopped. I thought they were too ugly to ever become something. They sat and stared at me for all those years. Last year I picked them up and they became something. So I finished them and then I made more. I am not a painter, so I had to use paint in a way that would work for me. They always begin with a yellow background and then I pour other paints on them that I have diluted with water. Usually it is a pearlized paint. The result is an image that resembles maps or railroad tracks. I use these pieces, as I do other works, as part of my story telling series. In them, I talk about my family, loss of love, experiences I have had, and ways I have felt. Most of them have 3-D objects affixed to them. I like to do that.

ExtraImaginary: What is your most memorable moment as an artist?

Apryl Miller: It’s hard to pin down one moment as there have been many. Especially since all of this came to me as I lived my life. It has all been such a surprise! Though I can’t put it down to one moment, I have to say, sharing my work as it has rolled out of me, with my children, has held the most meaning for me. Since my work began with them as the catalyst, we have shared the experience together. As they have grown, my work has grown, we have all grown together.

ExtraImaginary: Which artists inspire you?

Apryl Miller: I have to say first and foremost, Marcel Duchamp, as he is the one who taught me that I could say my work was art. I admire Andy Warhol for blazing his own trail and having the savvy to become wealthy while he was at it. As a large part of my work is writing, some of the writers I admire are Elizabeth Bishop, Anne Sexton, T.S. Eliot, Lydia Davis and Joan Didion.

ExtraImaginary: What are your goals in regards to your art?

Apryl Miller - Silence of LoveApryl Miller: My work speaks of our universal state of imperfection and how it binds us together. This is the umbrella over all that I do. Being a preacher’s daughter, I have a lot to say and I say it through my artwork. Coming from a religious background, there is always the idea of being of service to others and finding ways in which to help people. My work is a joyous celebration of all life has to offer us, all of it, leaving nothing out. I express optimism in what I do, hope and acceptance for all. People are profoundly moved by my work, I have seen it often expressed, through both tears and laughter. As I have grown as a person, I have grown as an artist, alongside myself. It is this that I hope for; that I will continue to fully develop as a person and that my art will reflect that. If I can continue to challenge who I am, struggling with my imperfections and inadequacies, then I will feel I am doing what I came here to do, and then I can continue to share my story with others.

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