New collaboration details how ‘to abstract’ art appreciationWritten by Matt Liasse | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Ancient arabic ritual
yellow storm prays
spirits dance mist
born breath bloom
flowers aroma eye”
Jack Doehring wrote the above poem after seeing “Open 11,” a multimedia work by local artist Sarah Miller.
Miller’s piece was created in the early spring, when flowers began to bloom.
“That was a direct influence … the regeneration, the ritual of spring,” she said. “It’s a very abstract motif, but it’s definitely a reference to flowers and bugs and beginnings.”
The two collaborated (Doehring wrote poems after seeing Miller’s art) for “To Abstract,” a book that will showcase their work and serve as a teaching tool. It will include 70 visual pieces and 20 poems.
Doehring, who currently lives in Los Angeles, was a student of Miller’s at the University of Michigan School of Art & Design in 2006. Miller approached Doehring about the collaboration.
“I think art in the 21st century really is about collaboration,” Miller said. “I think [Doehring’s] work is a perfect match for my visual.”
Miller said she enjoyed reading the poems her work inspired Doehring to write.
“The artist can think of something while they’re doing it, but that doesn’t mean that the audience is going to take it that way,” she said. “The way that I view Jack’s poems is another platform, another mind, if you will, another perspective.
“What’s interesting about our exchange in collaboration is that I’ve become the audience,” Miller said. “To complete the experience of art you have to have both the creator and the audience. It’s an interesting collaboration.”
The idea to create a book was inspired by Miller’s mentor Martin Nagy. Nagy saw the work Miller has created since early this year, totaling more than 300 works, and suggested she make the book to be used as a teaching tool.
“Abstract art is so misunderstood, even today. Modern art is not really understood by the public and even from people who even teach art,” Miller said. “When people think of abstract, people think of something as very confusing or kind of crazy.”
Miller said the term “abstract” actually means “to take from” or “to simplify.” The title of the book uses the term “abstract” as a verb.
“It is so misunderstood that Martin said that it would be a great tool to use the book for teaching art appreciation,” Miller said.
Miller wants the book to reach both art connoisseurs and those who have never taken an art class.
“That was one of the main motivations of the book, as an outreach, to help people appreciate what was kind of a mystery to them before,” Miller said.
Doehring described Miller’s work as “a combination of form and formlessness.”
“She uses form to express the feelings and thoughts that come from a formless space, things that you can’t express normally with words,” he said. “When I look at her work … it immediately invokes ideas of extensiveness of the space, of the universe, and also the expansiveness of the human mind.”
Miller’s routine is based on improvisation.
“I have no idea, when I start a work, what it will look like,” Miller said. “That’s the beauty and the fun of it: not knowing the end result but there’s a process of discovery.”
She said she works in the spirit of art in the 21st century, which utilizes nontraditional materials presented in a way that is “fresh and unexpected.” Miller used three kinds of chalk in her art for this project: sidewalk chalk, teaching chalk and art chalk. She combines these with pastels and water, which creates a sort of reflection.
“The water creates almost like a window on the slate,” Miller said. “I thought it was a nice mix with the dry media.”
Miller feels abstract art should be appreciated the same way music is.
“It’s a very similar experience,” she said. “You should really try to feel it rather than understand it. When people listen to music, they don’t try and understand it, they just get some sort of emotion from it.”
Miller said it becomes a problem when visitors to art museums become confused by experimental work. They depend on written blurbs from the curators when that happens.
“Unfortunately they’re missing the interaction and the experience of connecting with the art,” Miller said. She hopes that when people learn more about abstract art, they can visit museums without that confusion.
“To Abstract” will be available on Amazon in time for the holidays.