Bill Miller's works, now on view at Gallerie Chiz, are evocative, moving and sustainable, fine art painstakingly unearthed from mundane materials. In an aesthetic recalling styles ranging from pointillism to Dr. Seuss, Miller constructs exclusively using vintage linoleum, cut and shaped but otherwise unaltered, adding dimension to his wall-mounted pieces both literally and figuratively.
In art, it's a novel medium, but in 20th-century American architecture, linoleum was ubiquitously underfoot. Its past imbues its present with history and nostalgia.
The Pittsburgh-based Miller coaxes linoleum into landscape, still life and portrait. Clusters of small works like "Grace," "Inca" and "Yorick" — a trio of skulls — are bright and dynamic. "Macho Libre," a face in a devil-hued luchador mask surrounded by festively blooming flowers, is clever and comical. The large-scale "Eye of the World" is truly epic — sprawling, intricate and amazing, a vivid interpretation of a planet and its people delicately rendered. Outdoor scenes feature rolling hills, boats floating atop lakes, bristly pines and blades of grass. Abundant forests are magical and mystical and so lushly rendered that you can smell the earth.
The busy-ness of the environmental pieces is offset by the wealth of emotion and staggering depth of the portraits. "My Mother the War" is generous in its gravity, a Madonna brimming with dignity. Her strength is as palpable as her pain, and communicated with brilliant clarity. The aged, craggy sailor in "My Home Is the Sea," landlocked and housebound in his living room, sits stagnant in a chair; the image of his hale and hearty youth rests in a picture frame behind him. It's beautiful, powerful and heartbreaking. "Three Sisters" is as electrically charged, with one woman offering solace to a distraught other, the third glimpsing the viewer at the moment of intrusion.
This Chiz show, Fly On In ... Take Off Your Shoes ... Have a Seat, also includes works by Michael Beswick and Ron Nigro. In Beswick's sculptural furniture pieces, form follows function in practical and stirring grace. Chairs are composed of roughly hewn wood and polished steel, merging the organic and manufactured with elegance, and discarded metal is repurposed into small tables as lovely as they are useful. Nigro's sculptural models envision aircraft both replicated and imaginary, construction in wire with sinuous strength.