a (non) conversation with Sam Orlando Miller

"But the main thing in my mind really was to create something the opposite of the drawing, the reverse, that did not absorb light and that gave energy and balance to the room. I wasn’t for a moment thinking about making something you could look at yourself in. "

- Sam Orlando Miller

e·lu·sive adj. /iˈlo͞osiv/
"eluding clear
perception or complete mental grasp; hard to express or define..."

Un abbraccio del bosco
aka "An embrace of the forest"

A few months ago while at an opening of works at Meier Ferrer in Los Angeles, I encountered Sam Orlando Miller's mirrored work on the back wall. Sitting quietly, illuminating the space with a perfect frequency. Sam's work has a sense of the past, yet also an elusive presence that is hard to put into text.

In hopes of learning more about his thought process and point of departure for these works, I contacted him. Eventually, I spoke with Helen Miller, his wife, over the line one early morning. We had a conversation about the Italian countryside, connection/dis-connecting with the pulse of urban living, their home that was published in World of Interiors 2010, and eventually onto Sam's work + workshop. After many emails back and forth, Helen sent me a work regarding Sam's work that she had written, entitled, "Growing Up with Silver and About the Untitled Mirrors ." It's a beautifully written introduction to Sam's work, and I'm honored to post it on YHBHS in its completition. Together Sam and Helen have created a space to create in, putting forth their ideas into the world, and I'm glad I contacted them.

This weekend in San Francisco, Sam Orlando Miller's work can be seen at SF 20/21 for those in the Bay Area. Sam Orlando Miller is represented by Hedge Gallery, a San Francisco design/art gallery, that will be re:opening at a new location this Fall 2011.

Thank you Sam and Helen for your kindness... - David John

untitled mirror 1 detail (reflected in the mirror is a work from the untitled sculpture series).

Growing Up with Silver and About the Untitled Mirrors

"Silver has always been part of my life. It is a material I grew up with and so it feels like part of me. When I look at silver so many memories emerge; of my father, his craftsmen, of their workbenches, the dirt of the polishing room, the sparkle of a sugar bowl chased with a pattern of strawberries. Silver takes up a significant part of my memory and most things are in some way connected to it.

As a youth I spent time working alongside skilled English craftsmen. Two in particular worked with glass so this recent collection of untitled mirrors is rooted to the European craftsmen I feel a deep connection with.

I found a piece of mirror one day and I picked it up because I saw that the silver was coming off. It was because it was falling apart that I noticed it. The disintegration made me more aware of the material because I saw it in a state of change. I didn’t think these things at the time I just felt an emotional connection to the old mirror so I put it in the workshop and left it there.

Some time later Helen was photographing a room in our house, which has dark walls. Looking at her pictures it struck me that all the light was being absorbed by the building and by the furniture and little was being reflected back. So I remembered the piece of mirror. And the shape came to mind from some black drawings of a crystal form I had made at that time. They are very dark drawings and within their blackness I felt the possibility of the opposite, of light.

I wanted to see if that crystal shape would work in three dimensions. So I had the form and the material and I put them together. But the main thing in my mind really was to create something the opposite of the drawing, the reverse, that did not absorb light and that gave energy and balance to the room. I wasn’t for a moment thinking about making something you could look at yourself in.

above: untitled drawing 4, below: untitled mirror 7

What is essential to me in these works is that the disintegration of the mirror surface makes you aware of the silver. By finding that first piece of abandoned mirror I identified a material in a particular state that I felt connected to and that I could work with. Most of the materials I work with tend to have such a patina. This can happen naturally or can be created. If the material has to be transformed in order to let it speak then that’s what I do. But I need to understand what has created the surface that draws me towards it. Whether it’s time, misuse or loving care, whatever has happened that makes it compelling, I identify. But sometimes new, unaltered materials can also be an interesting counterpoint. Simply because they have not yet had a life.

In my mind there is no hierarchy of one material over another, be it a diamond or charcoal. Part of growing up with silver made me realize it was just a substance that happens to be wonderful to work with because of it’s physical qualities, not it’s status or worth. The skill of working with silver is the understanding of reflection. When you make an object in silver you need to know how it captures the world around it.

Making the UNTITLED MIRRORS I have been working with ovals and facets over a period of time and a dialogue has developed between me and them, between the reflective and the dark, the shadow and the light, and there is always the chance that when I look into one of my pieces something unexpected might happen."

25 September 2010 Helen Miller
photographs and text courtesy of Helen Miller
Sam Orlando Miller's site here..