Lyn Miller

Callanwolde Fine Arts Center

Lyn Miller’s work is rooted in the fascination evoked by media imagery, but her style is ambivalent rather than aggressively rhetorical. The seven works in her recent show (all from 1987) are figurative, combining the techniques of propaganda, advertising, and religious iconography, sometimes rather uneasily. In 1982–83 Miller worked in the studios of Robert Longo and Andy Warhol, and, since returning to the South, she has been developing an idiom that bends the strategies of Pop and appropriation toward her own concerns.

Amok is a two-part work in which Miller juxtaposes revolutionary realism and advertising illusionism: on the left, three raised arms hold two wrenches and a rifle above a flaming bottom edge, while, on the right, a highly realistic fudge brownie is suspended against a cream-colored background. She describes it as representing her “addiction to brownies and the fight against it.” In Holy Cow, a large quasi-relief work in oil and plaster on canvas, a bull that might have been derived from a malt liquor commercial leaps out of a landscape featuring a classical temple. The most striking piece in the show is Fixation, a large red canvas on which Miller has drawn a weight lifter who stares straight out at the viewer. She has depicted only his upper body, so that he appears to be sinking below the edge of the canvas from the weight of the barbell. The style of drawing and the solid field of color suggest Miller’s debt to Longo, but the image is static: the body builder is caught at the moment of maximum lift, pausing as if staring narcissistically at himself in a mirror (replaced in this case by the viewer). Fixation is not a visual puzzle but an essay on fascination that presents the reflexivity of the male gaze and also draws the eye of the viewer into complicity with his self-admiration.

Miller also presented two iconlike works in frames studded with what appear to be mirror shards (which, though only made of wood covered with paint and reflective paper, would draw blood if you handled them). Skin Deep is a painting of a body builder, this time showing only a flexed arm, the upper torso, and the lower half of his face, so that the eyes are missing as well as the legs. Servant Leader, a mixed-media relief depicting a lamb against the latticework of a chain-link fence, presents another ambiguous image boldly displayed. The lamb and its protective frame both attract and repel, but the icon has no supplementary symbols to clarify Miller’s intention. The title, the Christian connotations, and the “broken-glass” shards are meant to provoke the viewer into focusing the composite picture through the lens of personal experience. Especially in Servant Leader and Fixation, Miller has trapped her audience into confronting his or her own fascination with persuasive images.

Glenn Harper