On Working With Materials, Subjects And Space: An Interview With Artist Amada Claire Miller
In December 2018, #BBATX partnered with The Line Hotel Austin to curate an art installation for the hotel’s lobby. We selected Amada Claire Miller—a Texas-based curator and artist, working with natural dyes and industrial materials to create sculptures, ceramics and textiles—to produce the installation. Throughout November and December, Miller collaborated with our staff and the LINE to create site-specific works that explored the ways light and shadows interact in the lobby, titled “The Strange Slant of Light.”
Today, in commemoration of this project, we have an interview with Miller on her process and the pieces she produced for this collaboration. Her current exhibit The Absurdity of the Fact of Us, on view at Sala Daiz through February 8, and you can find Amada’s work on her website and Instagram.
This interview was conducted by #BBATX Projects and Operations Coordinator, Natalia Rocafuerte. All photos by Jeanette Nevarez.
Q: How do you practice personal and professional curiosity?
Amanda Claire Miller: When I was about 8 or 9 I was so perplexed that there was space and material inside of the walls within my room that I cut small circles into the sheetrock to see what was in there. My mom generously describes my youth as not “fitting inside of anyone else’s box”. I was definitely a weirdo, I constantly talked about everything and nothing. I didn’t really understand science at that age except that it was a subject I was forced to learn about, but I liked the way stars sparkled and wondered why that was.
Curiosity is a way to slice through the darkness of a subject to reveal its entirety and from a very young age I have been approaching people and things with a curious mind. Lately, I’ve been working with scientists more, I find that most of them are incredibly selfless when it comes to their work and they love to share their research. I try to capture that energy and create work that can be shared with a broader audience. This leaves me casting a wide net, which makes being curious about subjects and materials a must. I was recently speaking to a scientist-friend who told me that I was a “genuinely curious person”, I think that was the best compliment I’ve ever received.
Q: Your materials range from natural dyes and textiles to Plexiglass and dichroic. How do you pick you materials?
Miller: I approach the subject before deciding on a material. My recent work is more rooted in research, science, origins of life, things that can translate into many forms. My research tends to not just be about subjects though, it’s also material based. I’m often on 3M’s website looking for new things, or even when I’m walking in my neighborhood, I pop into industrial material shops to see what kind of unusual things they might have in stock.
Q: Your holiday installation at The Line Hotel explores shapes and light (the pieces often taking different light forms throughout the day). What lead you to explore this new body of work?
Miller: With the ‘Strange Slant of Light’ series at the LINE Hotel I was looking at the way light fills a space and how it changes throughout the day as time passes. I had been researching the way the sun attends to the architecture in Ancient Egypt, illuminating and changing structures in a very thoughtful way. This type of architecture is magical and powerful and in Texas, the sun is something you cannot escape.
The dichroic film reacts with varying light sources and color immediately surrounding it, which cause it to change it’s tone almost every moment. At any angle you approach this work, you will see a very different piece. For me, this relates to the way time functions as an experience which varies greatly depending on your perception. It’s not quite the same anywhere and it is ever-changing.
Q: You have some pretty great art and exhibit titles. Your most current exhibit “The Absurdity of the Fact of Us” at Sala Diaz in San Antonio has a great title, what's your process for naming your work?
Miller: I try to jot down any thoughts or bits of a conversation, I think this is another case of being curious: reading a lot, listening intently, and recording your thoughts is a good way to keep a stock pile of exhibition titles. My notes app is bonkers.
Q: In “The Absurdity of the Fact of Us,” you have a work that intercepts science and fine art, could you tell us how you came to work with scientists and astronauts?
Miller: I began working with scientists in Berlin during a residency at the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien. While there, I became close with the Curator of Meteorites at the Museum fur Naturkunde. I had a studio in their building where I explored their archives and made casts of meteorites that had survived the destruction of their east wing in World War II. That experience afforded me more contacts in the science world and helped me feel more confident and comfortable reaching out the astronauts and scientist. I am now working with the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission Director on a series that will be featured in an exhibition this spring.
Q: Who are some other artists that inspire your work?
Miller: Cornelia Parker, Trevor Paglen and Dario Robleto.
Q: How has your work evolved from when you first began to present day?
Miller: Initially, I struggled a lot to find a medium that I felt encapsulated my practice. I was criticized for jumping around with materials and subjects. But that kind of criticism seemed very closed-minded to me and ultimately had the reverse effect. It hurdled me to where I am now, and helped me to embrace that side of myself. I don’t like to paint and I rarely draw, I definitely don’t keep a regular sketchbook or feel the need to stick to any particular lane when it comes to material. I’m always trying to dig deeper and move further than where I landed last time. I love exploring new subjects and I’ll keep doing that until I feel particularly drawn to something I can’t stop working on–if that ever happens.
Q: Do you keep constant themes?
Miller: Not really, I try to remain in constant motion when it comes to themes. For the show at Sala Daiz (which is open until February 8), the themes and research span from Ancient Egypt to how astronauts smell space and that is a legitimate reflection of my sporadic research of themes.
Q: What music plays in your studio and does it make its way into your work?
Miller: At the moment; Alice Coltrane, Moondog, Dorthy Ashby, T. Rex, Nino Ferrer, Captain Beefheart, Deniece Williams. I think everything informs everything, there’s always seepage. I’m currently making a record as an art project, perhaps this is my way of paying homage to an important part of my studio practice. Keeping a record player in the studio helps me step back from my work, refresh and reset my sights and continue moving with a larger picture in mind.
Q: What about space draws you to it?
Miller: To quote the late and great Gene Roddenberry, it’s the final frontier. No but really, there’s so much to learn out there and we’ve barely scratch the surface. To be fair, I’m also blown away by the human mind’s ability to comprehend space (or not). How did Einstein predict gravitational lensing–or conversely–how could someone possibly believe in a flat earth? These are the things that interest me and usually start an avalanche of research.
Curious about #BBATX’s arts programming? Learn more about how we collaborate with artists here and keep up with exhibitions, installations and openings at bossbabes.org/events.