Amelia Midori Miller

Hands: Other windows to the soul

<em>One Eye, Two Eyes </em>,2020, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches, 2020.
One Eye, Two Eyes ,2020, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches, 2020.

Painter Amelia Midori Miller fuses traditional trompe l’oeil oil techniques with innovative contemporary gestures, inspired, in part, by being the parent of a young daughter. Miller began painting at a young age herself, while growing up in Tokyo. “Even those still-life paintings I made when I was 10 are eerily similar to my current, natural painting style,” she says. Lately, she’s taken to setting hands, ears, and other isolated parts of the human body against amorphous, still-life backdrops. She credits Mary Cassatt, Liu Xiaodong, and John Frederick Peto as influences, but most of all, Édouard Manet. “I used to look at the central hand in Manet’s Olympia as the perfectly painted hand,” she says. “In my recent paintings, I strive to portray a level of intimacy by focusing on hands.”

During the pandemic, Miller has been preoccupied with depicting the hands of her two-year-old daughter. Watching her toddler grow and explore the world made Miller realize how central hands are to daily life. She has sought to portray hands as the primary means of human experience and growth — not just for her daughter but for all of us. “I’ve been interested in painting hands for a while now, after observing my daughter’s ever-evolving gross motor skills very carefully,” she says. “Hands can elicit so much information, from your true emotions (that a face alone can disguise), to a sense of playfulness, or loaded meanings from general hand signals.”

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Noelani Kirschner is a former assistant editor for the Scholar.


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