photos by Catherine Akins

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If your synapses are not too fried from ArtScape, come check out Lovely Neighbor/Lonely Neighbor, New Work by Curtis Miller at the newly-renovated John Fonda Gallery at Theatre Project this Friday.

The exhibition, curated by Catherine Akins, is “An homage to his former neighbors; these curious paintings allow the viewer to enter with their own perceptions of neighborly love.”

Miller’s haunting and colorful yet somewhat minimalist paintings journey to a meditative abstract arena of the contemporary zeitgeist, leaving the viewer with a feeling of curiosity rather than confrontation.

Curtis Miller is a Sondheim Semi­Finalist and recently received his MFA at Hoffberger School of Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).

What Weekly asked the artist for some commentary on his work and artistic experience:

“I focused on printmaking during my undergraduate work, and utilized printmaking tools to make narrative and image-based paintings. The combining of narrative and abstraction includes the influence of artists Amy Sillman and David Humphrey.

My focus in grad school has been thinking about the material / object aspects of a painting. I am drawn to the stylization typically seen in naive painting and folk art and the current focus on bad painting and/or casual painting has also been influential.

My palette contrasts with my personality. I think being unique in terms of color is impossible, you are fishing from a universal well.

My wife and I just had a baby and bought a house here in Baltimore so I am going to stick around for a while. I am in the process of converting my basement into an adequate studio space and planning to continue to make paintings.

We are from South Texas and lived there all our lives until we moved here, two years ago, so I could go to grad school at MICA.

My family started calling me an artist when I was very young. They really meant craftsman. Craft was and still is an important part of my practice. I did not start understanding the art world until I was much older.”

In keeping with the connection to the theatre space, the art works provide glimpses of environments that could certainly serve as stage sets, distinguished by a specific pastel color palette that feels decisive and contrary yet still carries the soft feminine connotations that such colors traditionally imply.

An oddly-shaped painted wooden construction offers a prominent, solitary representational image of an object surrounded by empty fields, in separate yet connected picture planes, and seems to gently invoke a cerebral poetry of interpretation, like an interactive experiment in cognitive neuroscience, without the electrodes.

The artist can share a specific story (about one neighbor in particular) that provided the title for the show. The journey from passive-aggressive apprehension to overeager acceptance may be one that many of us experience interpersonally, and when we immerse and connect through art, theatre and life.

The opening reception is Friday, July 26, 2013 from 5 to 7 pm, at
45 West Preston Street Baltimore, MD 21201. The gallery contact phone number is 410­539­3091, with hours from Monday through Friday, 11 am to 4 pm.

Living in the world of contemporary narrative surrealism, surrounded by street art, happenings and fine paintings, digital videos and sculptural installations, our collective neocortex experiences no shortage of novel images to stimulate the rods and cones, to prod our brains in their constant search for patterns and implications of movement, not to mention another chapter of the unfolding story.

Miller characterized the process of assembling the current exhibition as “serious fun.”

The exhibition will run from July 19 through August 11.

Since 1971, Theatre Project has provided a distinct cultural experience to the citizens of Baltimore by presenting new, innovative and diverse works of art.

The John Fonda Gallery provides the contemporary visual artists of Baltimore a vital venue to present shows featuring paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography and fiber arts. It was dedicated on January 14, 1993 to the memory of John Fonda, who served as curator of the gallery and nurtured Baltimore arts and artists.

Recent renovations were supervised by a planning committee including Sidney Pink, Amy Boone­McCreesh, and curator Catherine Akins.

Find more information about exhibitions at the John Fonda Gallery at Theatre Project online at

thejohnfondagallery.tumblr.com

About The Author

Daniel is an artist and writer in Baltimore. In addition to fiction he writes art criticism and cultural journalism pieces.