Thursday, March 2, 2017

Portraits by Dan Miller

Yesterday I went to see Drawn From Wood: Woodcuts by Dan Miller at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (up through April 8th.) PAFA is my alma mater and Miller was my graduate school adviser, so this was a real treat.

Miller specializes in woodcut portraits. Most are larger than life depictions of known artists and thinkers, although several others, including a series of Van Gogh, feature the subject's portrait smaller, in a corner and visually integrated into a related landscape or cityscape.

Although the colors scheme is dominated by black and white and colors are always muted, most of the works are composed of at least 2 layers, adding depth to the imagery.

Though the craft is painstakingly refined, the evidence of Miller's art-making process is always part of the final product. For example he uses multiple panels to build a large image, often creating a seam that runns down the center of a face, sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious, and sometimes completely vanishing.

While I always get lost in the tremendously varied linework in Miller's prints, what is most memorable is the life and personality in each of the large portraits. Each face capture's a particular state of mind, whether it is the bound nervous energy of Sarte (detail above), the friendly-yet-intense gaze of Barbara Hepworth (second image featured here), or the deep, quiet distraction of Phillip Glass (third image).

I highly recommend this exhibit to any art-lovers who will be in or near Philly before it closes April 8th.

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