News Column

For artist Nathan Miner, it's not what you see, but how

July 31, 2014

By Will Broaddus, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.

July 31--Visitors can see five paintings by Nathan Miner, and watch one being created, at Montserrat College of Art this summer.

That's because the gallery where the artist's works are hanging includes a studio where he will be working until Aug. 14, in a combined exhibit and residency called "The Long Now."

"It's a great opportunity to understand the process," Miner said. "When you're looking at the completed work, it's hard to see how they were created, because my process is very unusual."

His compositions start with a digital image, usually taken from a photograph, that he transfers to a sheet of heavy watercolor paper. This is usually an abstraction of some pattern, such as the tiles on his studio floor, which serve as a "net" or "matrix" on which he draws and paints with watercolors.

"These volume spaces became a container for my energy," Miner said. "My idea was to explore the space, to try to determine what the space was by interacting with it."

Slightly blurred, digital versions of these smaller works are then printed on another sheet of paper and fixed to a larger canvas. Miner works on these further with acrylic wash and, eventually, oil paint, to create his final image.

"This process kind of references geological nature, where there's a process of gathering, sedimentation and then erosion," he said. "What I try to do with the process is mimic these qualities of nature that aggregate toward something."

Miner doesn't choose a subject to paint so much as turn himself over to the process, which results in a painting that can remind viewers of many things, but without resembling anything particular.

Miner said his paintings look enough like the world to "seduce" viewers into looking at them, but it is the act of looking that he finally wants them to consider.

"The work is really about that process of associative contextualizing," he said. "It's about giving a space to consider that whole process of association."

To involve visitors not only in his previous and current works, but future ones as well, Miner is asking visitors to treat the floor space in front of his new painting as a wishing well.

"I've invited visitors to interact with (the studio) in two different ways," he said. "One is to treat it like a fountain and throw a coin on the surface, and then I airbrush over the coin, leaving a trace of their eye on the field."

The other way involves a dictionary on a table, where Miner wants visitors to select a word that captures their response to his work and email it to him.

Tying together past, present and future in this way is at the heart of Miner's project.

"Because his paintings take a long time to complete, we thought, how cool would it be to do a time-lapse photo of him working," said Leonie Bradbury, gallery director. "You can see the slow change as you revisit it over time, and his work is so much about that -- slowing down and taking the time to look, so you go to this more contemplative place."

The name of the show, "The Long Now," is borrowed from a foundation that encourages long-term thinking as a way to foster a sense of responsibility.

That message has been lost in our culture, Miner said, where the Internet creates an expectation of instant gratification.

By making paintings that absorb viewers but resist definition, he wants to slow down our reactions, which he hopes will resemble our responses to music.

"We don't listen to a piece of music to get to the conclusion, we listen to it for the duration and the experience," he said.

The large scale of his canvases, which seem to surround their viewers, helps him create that effect.

"He talks about the physicality of seeing a lot," Bradbury said. "With his work it is about you physically being in front of it, being surrounded by it, having the field extend beyond you. That is a big part of what makes it rewarding."

The payoff comes when we start to wonder less about what we are seeing, and more about why and how we see things as we do.

"It's this becoming aware of your perception and your relationship to what you're looking at -- and to have that be a physical sensation, not just looking with your eyes," Bradbury said. "And I think that happens when you slow down."


What: "The Long Now: Nathan Miner in Residence"

When: Now to Aug. 14. Miner will be in the studio Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturdays, Aug. 2 and 9, from 1 to 5 p.m. Miner also gives artist's talks Thursdays at 4:30 p.m.

Where: Montserrat Gallery, Montserrat College of Art, Hardie Building, first floor, 23 Essex St., Beverly

Admission: Free



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Source: Salem News (MA)

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