Interview With Elaine Catherine Miller

Waiting (For the Sun to Set) Mixed media installation 96 x 96 x 144 in.

Waiting (For the Sun to Set)
Mixed media installation
96 x 96 x 144 in.

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
I’m a multidisciplinary artist raised in the suburbs of Nashville, did my undergraduate studies at Memphis College of Art, and recently received my MFA from Columbia College Chicago. I am currently living and working in Chicago as a gallery assistant at The Nevica Project, assistant to collage artist, Stephen Eichhorn, and am also working with a woman on photographing and marketing her two jewelry lines. Both of my degrees are in Fine Arts with a concentration in photography; however while I was in graduate school, my practice greatly changed and I’ve been making installations, sculptures, videos and music compilations for the past two and a half years. I currently have in the works a printed publication I would like to release this fall, and am working to add to my series, How to Have a Natural Experience.

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
The Internet. The idea of “searching” to find just about any resource you could possibly need, WITHOUT having to move away from your couch or tv, is really the heart of my process and where I draw inspiration from. I use sites like Ebay and Amazon to locate and acquire a variety of objects, materials, and doo-dads that inevitably make their way into my work. Primarily, I am really interested in consumer culture and how that is currently informed, encouraged, and exhausted with images.

I am also an avid user of Tumblr and Instagram. These sites, for me, act as an archive- a place for me to store visual information that informs my practice everyday. Today, there is an entire culture around images, and I really feel that these sites are exciting a new visual language and by proximity, a new type of creative.

Lastly, I’ve inadvertently used music as another form of inspiration. Many of my recent installations and videos have included contemporary musicians that I really like including MNDSGN, Internet Club, and even Notorious BIG. 

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
A good playlist helps the time pass while I’m in the studio. It really keeps me focused on what I’m making and getting it to a point that I can walk away from it.

 For many years, I had been constructing playlists to encourage me through rigorous tasks. It wasn’t until last September that I decided to take that process more seriously and create a body of work involving hour-long, seamless downloadable playlists called Friday Night Frozen Dinner. For almost a year, I released a mix every other Friday with the intention that anyone and everyone could have something to listen to while they were working, commuting, or hanging out. It has been, by far, one of my favorite projects to work on. Before Friday Night Frozen Dinner I had never included music projects into my practice. The series finale on August 21, culminates my current musical taste and the mixing capabilities I have adapted through the creation of this body of work.

What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them?
Almost everyday I struggle with the rationality of making art. Financial roadblocks certainly hurt my process as well. It really helps to have friends nearby who are also creative people, so that I can consult them about ways to move beyond the normal hang-ups. Really recently, my studio mates and I have been having critiques of each other’s work. Through this process, I can see new things in what I’ve been making, find out what is really working, and subsequently failing. I’ve also found that by visiting another artist’s website or seeing a really good exhibition helps me to get over my usual insecurities and motivates me to try new things.

 

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?
1. Domesticated, altered, disturbed nature
2. Technology / Retro futurism
3. The disconnectedness of urban society
4. Artificiality
5. Consumerism


Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)?
People I respect and look up to include my parents and siblings, Chancelor Bennett, Donald Glover, Chelsea Peretti, Drake, Kanye West, Joe Kay of the Soulection Collective, William Eggleston, Tavi Gevinson, my graduate school advisors - Ross Sawyers and Paul D’Amato, all of my creative friends avidly pursuing their dreams, and especially, Rihanna.

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given?
My boyfriend reminds me all of the time that when Kanye was first starting out, he made “5 beats a day for three summers”. That he, at one point, was not a good rapper and “if he wasn’t good by the first album, he’d be good by the second, and if not the by second, then the next album” and so on. This just reminds me that I don’t have to (and won’t) necessarily be “great" at something the first time around. That it shouldn’t deter me from experimenting with new methods or technology, because later down the road, something will turn out great, as long as I keep on trying.

Island (1) Mixed media sculpture 24 x 72 x 48 in.

Island (1)
Mixed media sculpture
24 x 72 x 48 in.