once when I was around around 20, I climbed up to the top of the Times Building to take a photo. my friend Vanessa and I had already ventured all over Manhattan with our cameras so standing on the top of a water tower above Times Square just seemed like a natural thing to do for us. we received permission, and signed waivers barring the owner from any legal obligation should we fall off. while we were up there, I decided that some day I wanted to put something big in Times Square. 

times square from the water tower, 1992
silver-gelatin print

10 years later it happened. along with five talented men, we worked day and night for two years. the design of 7 Times Tower was a grueling experience in terms of site, client, schedule, daily life, health, and as you can surmise, gender. I continue to build and I continue to paint. someday I want to create a large land sculpture for star gazing. but not yet.

7 times square, 2002

many people think in order to assemble a body of work that is viable, one must remain consistent in a discipline or medium. a painter should paint. a writer should write. but i don't believe that. i think a creative person should have as many dreams one is capable of handling in a lifetime. dreams are weighty, and dangerous; they produce pressure and self-doubt, but they also inspire our will to be. taking on many different creative endeavors over time does not cause one to lose focus, skill or quality. creative work, in general, begins with intention. it includes false starts, inevitable failures, loss, recovery, and time. but it is from this that we get to know ourselves. 

what if we didn't take chances? what if we stayed within the lines? within a single discipline?

categories within a creative process can be effective, but for me they are limiting. painter architect teacher mother wife. i am all these things and more. there is no and/or. too often, we use categories as a way of offering advice to someone or diminishing access to something else. sometimes people use them to tell us who they think we are. you are this. you are that. you are not this. don't have kids. have kids. you have to make a choice, now that you have this or that, do this. do that. why this? why that? categorizing can block creative forces and inhibit growth. to be a creative person you have to know when to work and when to stop and listen to your inner-self.

i have to create things in many mediums and disciplines. it's a sweet, dense spot for an observer of life. my daughter made intricate drawings of bugs and webs when she was four. she drew these on  paper atop tables at restaurants, and in my class at Georgia Tech on certain days when she was with me. these drawings led me to develop a whole series of drawings/paintings on paper in 2014 and 2015.

success is a hard thing to define and measure. for me, success is knowing who I am throughout life, and that is sustainable.

red tape, loose string, and band-aids, 2015.
in private collection.

"grow", digital study for a painting

"marriage",  photo-collage 2016

in my work:
"I am interested in visual icons of occupation, comfort, and discomfort. In painting, I explore how we collect, wear, and inhabit objects and places to create a sense of control, balance, safety, and security. Fascinated by visible traces of time left behind by us, via form, use, and setting, I examine how we dwell in the world. I work in oil paint, acrylic paint, drawing materials, collage, and photography. I develop paintings in multiple series. On occasion, I also conceive of very large things and build them."

things I have been working on this year:

paintings on paper, wood and canvas in progress:

idea board for a green space in progress:

new wood framed building under construction:


Going Big: a survey and opening night

joyce miller, discarded thoughts.

artists meet in coffee shops and bars. we talk about thoughts, art, life and studio. it's a thing, and always has been. at the famous cedar tavern, the ab-exer's met almost every night. they drank, laughed, fought, sulked, said stupid things and sometimes said brilliant things. they went on the road together. they networked in common creativity. they participated in salon style exhibitions. 

"And Franz was a charmer and filled with -oh, Phil Guston and I got talking, telling Franz Kline stories. Phil told this: Franz also was a great drinker, and they went out, he and Franz were on a panel at the Chicago Art Institute. Franz stayed up all night the night before, drinking all night. When they got back on the panel, Franz's head was nodding like a dormouse, he was so sleepy, and they were fighting back and forth, the audience. Franz didn't say much. Someone says, "What is painting, anyhow?" Franz lifted his head and he said, 'Painting, painting's like stuffing a mattress. Didn't you ever stuff a mattress?" - Grace Hartigan

we know what it means to "stuff a mattress". Franz's comment is a brilliant description of the feeling of making artworks. so much is pouring out of our skin we have to put it somewhere to get comfortable or even uncomfortable. one doesn't do this work unless it is necessary to be at peace in the world. we break and then we build. many of us are in our studios all day long in solitude; social media sometimes becomes our tavern. we create, share, meet, drink, fight, sulk, say stupid things, and sometimes say brilliant things. occasionally, we gather together in big ways, in real space and time, and make things happen, just as artists have for centuries.

Going Big is a large, salon-style group show of art colleagues, who hang in a virtual tavern. curated by Suzan Shutan and Susan Carr, the exhibition highlights the work of 111 artists from across the country. all the work is 16 inches in size or under. the artists participating in Going Big range from established artists to mid-career artists to emerging artists. the work from the show is for sale.

see this exhibition at central booking on new york's lower east side.
contact: central booking

photos by joanne mattera
photos by fred gudzeit
photo by mark van wagner
photo by joan fitzsimmons

some favorites (but not all of them) from the exhibition.

judy pfaff
jon cowan
nancy baker
susan scott
tamar zinn
richard kooyman
blossom verlinsky
frankie gardiner
melanie parke
sky pape
jeanne tremel
julia schwartz
connie goldman
grace graupe-pillard 
laura moriarty

press about this exhibition:

here is my piece.
helen crawford
read more about this piece and series here.


"fortitude" and a exhibition in NYC

fortitude, 2015
12" x 12"
acrylic, graphite, conte crayon, colored pencil on acid free paper.

My new body of work, riddles, explores relationships between bodies, symbols, myth, enclosure, comfort, discomfort and desire. You can read more about this series here


I am happy to announce that "Fortitude", will be in a group show in New York at Central Booking's Haber Space Gallery in the Lower East Side. Curated by Suzan Shutan and Susan Carr, the exhibition opens Thursday, July 30th at 6pm - 8pm through August 28th, 2015. central booking.

Some of my favorite artists are in this show. I am honored to be included amongst them.


security blanket

quilts are made from stitching together quilting squares. the word quilt comes from the latin word, cultica or "mattress", and was first recorded as a word in the 1550's. 

a quilting square is typically constructed of nine squares, although variations exist throughout history. nine is a scared number. it represents eternal heaven, a search for truth, wisdom, the hermit (in tarot cards), enemies in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics (the nine bows), and the nine muses in Greek and Roman Mythology. the riddle series relies on a nine square format, and plays within the historical meaning of this geometry. these paintings explore notions of comfort and the symbols we cling to as we dress ourselves in it: fabric, mountains, houses, trees, birds, insects, material objects, decoration, water, fruits, and talismans. 

domestic comfort as we know it in western society is a social construct. it is foremost a concept about dwelling. we designed it in the 16th century, although it is typically discussed with homage to Virtuvius and his "lost" treatise on architecture from the 1st Century BC. often we think of "dwelling comfortably" as a natural desire, and an exhibit of success. this "good life" has a pretty view, soft objects, blankets, soft chairs, and protection. but as humans, we really only started to "get comfortable" when secular architecture started borrowing from the sacred. 

Palladio created the first comfortable country house, or Villa, in 1537. based upon geometrical squares divided into groups of 9 (in plan and elevation), the underlying structure set forth a secular vision of living that would influence the very basis of the modern private home. eventually, the Palladian influence would go on to define the ideals of comfort we adopted from the British and Dutch, in the form of a house with a garden (british), and tactile, personalized rooms for sitting, sleeping, and eating (dutch). the act of dwelling became a desired place of status for all: heaven on earth.

to dwell well is to believe security has been achieved. comfort is a symbol that we market, sell and certainly protect. but modern comfort is also a riddle. the word comfort comes from late latin confortare, or "to strengthen". it suggests not just a sense of ease, but a need for fortification, and relief from affliction, invasion, both physically and mentally. it can come to us in the form of a person, place, or thing. the objectified thing-ness of comfort has endless forms: a chair, a car, an enclosure, a pleasure, an acquisition, a retaliatory remark, an aggressive action, a warm cup, an embrace, a blanket. often comfort is taken for granted, and at times i am certainly guilty of this, but i remember that comfort comes and goes. it's not stable. 

security blanket, 2015
acrylic paint, graphite, conte crayon, colored pencil on assembled acid free paper.
from the series, riddles.
25" x 25" framed.

comfort dissolves, even when we have enough of it.

once, eleven years ago, we were at a porch party at a home in our neighborhood. in my arms i held my infant son. a woman from across the room approached me quickly, without smiling, and said, "you know he's really pretty for a boy." then she walked away and never spoke to me again. her delivery was disparaging and puzzling. i felt bullied. our friend, who is Italian, immediately sent us an evil eye or "the malocchio" talisman to place in our son's room. 

within the ideal of comfort is superstition, and that fascinates me. the evil eye is a curse usually cast when the receiver is unaware. once given, it is believed that it will cloud the receiver's days with bad fortune. found in the old testament, and many cultures across time, it is the eye of the envious. it goes like this: the looker "gives the eye" via a comment or stated hex. to counter this, a physical evil eye is given to the receiver to wear or place around their territory. an eye for an eye. they sometimes looks like this:

evil eye talismans in a tree protecting the Pigeon Valley, Cappadoccia, Turkey

we oscillate between comfort and discomfort daily. our need for constant comforting alters our behavior. sometimes we reach for objects to soothe us; sometimes we lash out at others to regain territory. perhaps our need for constant comfort via symbols of worth and status is a way of starting over: a building to dress our nakedness, a first leaf to camouflage or identify us, a blanket, a tent, a wish. sometimes comfort is action. we choose kindness, and other times we choose competition and power, a perverse kind of soothing: 

giovanni di paolo di grazie
the creation and expulsion from the paradise, 1445
tempera and gold on wood,  18.25" x 20.5"
(i cannot count how many lifetimes i have stood in front of this painting.)

security blanket is the center of this series. it is the protective evil eye. from this piece, the entire series grew. in the next few months i am adding new works to this series, while playing with symbols, material and certainly multiples of 9. 

eyes, leaves, sea, hearts, cherries, eggs, pearls

snake, monkey, bee, teddy bear, grass, stones for throwing.

dragonflies (ancient symbol of free will), stitches, keyhole, gold, and smoke.

security blanket in progress.
each work takes about a month or 2.