Following my graduation from Mount Holyoke College, where I created the first Interdepartmental Degree in Studio Art and Biology, I moved to Montana in 1972. This was based on my need for a home in the midst of nature and a permanent place in which to work on my own away from the dominant national art scene.
As a child I was intrigued by the Persian art I saw at first hand. My family lived in Iran for four years during the 1950’s. Watching artists and artisans working directly with their materials in the bazaars and workshops, as well as their focus on detail and pattern made a strong impression on me. As an adult artist I found that I could approximate the effect of Persian miniature painting with gouache on paper. Discovering that I have an aptitude for the paint, I taught myself gouache painting in the mid-1970’s, at a time when the medium was out of fashion.
Eventually, I began to paint in series, creating narrative work with flat surfaces, a bottom-to-top perspective and great attention to pattern and detail. I discovered that I preferred to work on a smaller size, which promotes a feeling of intimacy.
I also like to work with a variety of media, each facilitating a different aspect of visual expression. For example, I have devoted many years to developing my own approach to encaustic art. The plasticity and transparency of heated and colored beeswax allows for more abstract, semi-accidental marks and is well suited to pairing with my photography.
Periodically I am drawn to printmaking as a different and challenging way in which to work. With printmaking, I enjoy the aspect of producing multiples of the same image.
In my art I am preoccupied with several recurring themes – the Garden of Eden, amphora, young women, forest fire landscapes, mystical symbols, plant forms, scientific imagery, fairy tales and myths, hearts, rosebushes, billboard art, and wild versus cultivated nature. My collection of children’s science books and eccentric objects, housed in my studio, informs my work.
For me, one of the best things about being an artist is the opportunity to explore these ideas and themes visually.
Leslie Van Stavern Millar