Fred is another Mellwoodian artist. He is located in Bldg. B #302.
Karen Davis: Tell us what you do and why?
Fred Miller: What? My art is metal sculptures. I primarily use aluminum. I buy the aluminum in sheets, cut the needed pieces, bend and fit them, weld them together using a TIG process, and then finish them with a wire wheel to give a rough texture or with a sanding disc to give a smoother texture with movement.
Why? Numerous types of relationships between both natural and manmade objects may encourage introspection. By their very nature, these relationships have some impermanence about them. While a sense of impermanence is minimal in very stable relationships such as that between a house and its foundation, others show a very pronounced uncertainty, kindle a meditative spirit, or induce an emotional reaction. Contemplating the many possibilities of emotion or change, especially present in tenuous or precarious relationships, gives me a strong sense and appreciation of the present. It is this feeling that I instill in my sculptures. It makes life interesting, gives life value and induces in me a kind of meditative appreciation for the intrinsic worth of relationships, now, at this moment in time.
On the flip side, I also enjoy happy pieces that simply make me smile or feel joyous when I see them. Doesn't everyone like to feel happy?
KD: What other mediums have you worked in besides the aluminum? And if so, was the answer to "why" the same for those mediums? What I'm curious about is whether there is something inherent about aluminum and your processes that induce the meditative/emotional reactions around impermanence and feelings of joy that you mentioned.
FM: I have worked in other mediums. I very much enjoy balancing rocks on top of each other so that they look like they will fall (have attached a picture of a few of them). However it is not something that I want to do as a continuing art focus. I have also worked in wood but for some reason I enjoy metal the most. Welding is a very meditative process requiring constant and extreme focus. When welding a long "bead" I can easily get lost in time. It is only precarious in that it is easy to make a mistake and aluminum is regarded as far more difficult to weld than mild steel or stainless steel. I think I enjoy aluminum because it has a natural bright shine to it that finishes well without painting, it is light weight so large pieces can still be easily moved around, it is strong, and it is challenging to weld. It in itself doesn't necessarily lend itself to happiness, precariousness or impermanence; the pieces have to speak to that. It is just something I enjoy doing.
KD: Tell us about the "well" you draw from for inspiration and design ideas; and along those same lines, share how ideas go from inside your mind to a finished piece.
FM: You are making this "little interview" very deep but I will give it a try. Inspirations come from my life, past and present. I think about things that give or gave me joy and why that was. Often it was a precarious circumstance or it might have been reflective. For instance, as a child I loved to run down hills and I think that love reflected the feeling of tremendous speed I felt while at the same time tetering on a disastrous fall. I have a few pieces that follow that theme (on the stage at Mellwood). I have always loved to cross a stream by running across rocks that would make for a dry crossing, jumping from one to the next without a planned route. That is also a precarious feeling that when successful, makes you happy to be alive. I have a piece that portrays this; it is a child in the act of landing on a rock after jumping. I tend to notice balances in nature (stable mountains vs rock slides; still ponds vs roaring streams, yoga poses that seem to defy nature or body flexibility, interactions among people that may be conflicts or very harmonious) and I try to put these thoughts into an art piece. I love to laugh and to make people happy and a few of my "happy man face" pieces as well as my whimsical pieces reflect that feeling. Sometimes the idea spontaneously lends itself to an art work, sometimes I have to think about how to portray that idea. I don't know what else to say; life just happens.