New York

Melissa Miller

Holly Solomon Gallery

Melissa Miller deals with camp by transcendentally ignoring its territorial claims and invoking the eminent domain of the true believer. Her paintings often use colors from the campy side of the neo-expressionist spectrum, and her subject matter is often close to that of Paint-By-Number favorites, but her intensity and daring make these similarities purely incidental. Her paintings are beyond campiness of any degree (unconscious, conscious, self-conscious, conscious-unconscious). She dares to be decorative, but not at the expense of her mystical energy and the ferocity of her decorum.

Miller’s is a strange style, maybe equidistant between Van Gogh and Maxfield Parrish. The force of her colors makes one realize that clichés were once original, that over-repetition of an image is the wake of its efficacy. In The Swamp, 1983, Miller redeems a color combination and a theme that are beyond ruin. She shows that wading birds are a fine subject, that pink orange and blue green can be wonderful, that there is life after death for esthetics too. Sunsets, another shuttered theme, are reinvented here with volcanic proficiency.

Miller’s paint has a molten look, even when its colors are cooler, as in Flyers, 1984. And while the colors are never natural, they are never entirely unnatural either, but are dramatically tuned. In Flyers the moon—it could be the sun, for the orb present in most of these paintings is full—is tangerine, and the clouds are violet. Animals figure in all the paintings; natural in form but rather unnatural in aspect, they seem moonstruck, or under the sway of some peculiarly radiant mood—like the satyrlike monkeys, caught in an eerie light, who conspire in Secret, 1984.

Reflection, 1984, shows a tiger leaping over water, the sun/moon’s reflection beneath its paws as if it were risking the water in the hope of capturing heaven. The tiger’s delusion is redeemed by the spectacle it makes in its jump. It remains an emblem of the creator as artist and of the artist as a fierce appendage of nature. Miller has earned her stripes.

Glenn O’Brien