Vacillating between interior and exterior environments, the paintings in Brittany Miller’s exhibition investigate the space between reality and reverie. The exhibition title, a reference to David Markson's novel Wittgenstein's Mistress, speaks to the powerful relationship among feelings of isolation, madness, and fear. Utilizing the figures, and dispositions of the people who are closest to her, Miller creates dynamic portraits that exude an uncanny placidity. The body of work as a whole, marked by warped landscapes and dry staccato brush strokes, imparts a flattened fleeting depiction of everyday life.
Nodding to her earlier work with embroidery, Miller generates her compositions with a combination of short disjointed repetitive lines of dry oil paint. Variations in the density of the mark tend to dictate changes in light and shadows producing works with an impressionistic tapestry-like quality. In Whitson at 5:20 AM (2021), Miller utilizes a multitude of diminutive strokes in subdued earth tones to configure her subject and his environment. Her figure appears crouched upon a couch in a slightly sunlight filled living room. Playing with perspective, Miller distorts the couch faintly angling it toward the viewer destabilizing conventional notions of gravity.
Millers' subjects are often portrayed lost in moments of profound isolation. Her cropped compositions render an almost cinematic mood harkening to the sense of solitude that is emblematic of Edward Hopper. In A late-night note (2022), a man perches upright upon his blue pinstripe comforter. He is illuminated by a jarring yellow light as he looks off into the peripheral distance. The figure seems to be caught in a daze of apprehension, the rigidity of his body position leading to a sense of brooding restlessness.
Silence and estrangement pervade Miller’s subjects, even when depicted as a pair. The Bath (2021) displays two figures diverted into their own private realities while equally sharing in the habitation of space. A man sits soaking in the bathtub, his arm lackadaisical hangs over the edge as a woman rests her body upon the ledge next to him. Her upper body has been cropped from the composition, leaving only a torso, legs, and a hand that lays gently upon her thigh. Though their bodies occupy the same space there is a lack of relation or cognisant recognition. Rather, each subject seems to be engaged in an act of contemplative absorption highlighting the tension between companionship and connection.
There is a sense of uncertainty experienced as Miller’s works unfold, the accurate portrayal of life has been tampered with and playfully skewed. Her figures are flattened and pushed directly up into the same plane as their environments. Compositional elements hover about, neither fixed nor fluctuating in space. Her color pallet disrupts the distortion, allowing rich browns, warm yellows, cool blues, and bright hints of crimson to ground her work. Miller's world is mutable, her figures are astray in the arrestingly abnormal perpetually constructing, dismantling, and reconstructing reality.
Brittany Miller (b. 1990 Utica, NY) lives and works in the Bronx, NY. She received a BFA and an MS from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. She has participated in group exhibitions with Ground Floor Contemporary, Birmingham, AL; Field Projects, New York, NY; Deanna Evans Projects, Brooklyn, NY; M. David & Co, Brooklyn, NY; BravinLee programs; New York, NY; and The Painting Center, New York, NY among others. This is Miller's first show with Thierry Goldberg Gallery.