Melissa Miller

Contemporary Arts Museum

When it comes to a good animal act, humans generally seem to be easy prey. Poodles leaping through hoops, grinning chimps tying trash bags, or rearing stallions kicking their hooves against the jagged profile of the Rockies all trigger responses which seem innate. But our responses in situations where animals are given center stage are guided less by biological memory than by sign systems which have a long history. A mythology of the “secret” language of animals has been assimilated and significantly transformed in the course of a long odyssey from nature to culture. Images of animals serve as tokens that somehow, it is believed, guarantee our transport back to “nature,” Even domestic animals seem to carry this illusory promise.

Melissa Miller’s painterly celebrations of animals seem to be imbued with some of that promise: the expectation that the image-sign-tokens of wild and domestic

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