“The Huntress” 92” x 74” x 2” carbon black gesso and oil on canvas
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“The Act of Painting is a Dance” – A Conversation with Hazel Miller

A conversation between two artists started with a cup of Earl Grey Tea in the artist’s home and studio. 

Hazel Miller’s artist statement reads that her paintings explore the feminine spirit, the nature of consciousness and selfhood. 

Hazel and Gertrude
Hazel and Gertrude

Her work is created with traditional paints, such as acrylic and oil, as well as technology, like projectors and cameras. The women and femmes portrayed in these paintings are inspired by close friends of the artist. They are captured during moments of leisure and creativity. 

Hazel Miller is a recent transplant to Spokane from Portland, Oregon. She studied at Portland Northwest College of Art (PNWC) and graduated in 2016. She moved to Spokane in 2018, because of the desire for more space to expand. 

In Portland, Miller was in a 600-square-foot space. Since moving to Spokane, she now has a bigger space in her North Spokane home. 

The artist shared how nice it is to have her own space to create instead of working on just one piece because the space was so cramped and crowded. Miller now has the ability to work on multiple paintings at once in her home studio in Spokane.

Spokane is also where she and her husband, Josh Lorenzen, opened RÜT, a vegan restaurant inspired by the Pacific Northwest.

I recently went to RÜT with another artist in Spokane, Rose Honey, and I was struck by the work at the restaurant. I had a hunch it was Miller’s’ work because of her unique application of paint, the brushstrokes on raw canvas and moody color schemes. 

Later, I found out from our server that it was, in fact, Miller’s work. Miller was actually the point-designer for the interior of RÜT. Miller was a recipient of an Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant (2018) which funded the site-specific work for RÜT. 

Miller is best known for her large-scale provocative figurative body of work. What is familiar to me about Hazel’s work, and the thing that I’m drawn to, is her ability to express texture through simple materials. 

“The Huntress” 92” x 74” x 2” carbon black gesso and oil on canvas
“The Huntress” 92” x 74” x 2” carbon black gesso and oil on canvas

As I came into the front door of Hazel Miller’s home, the walls were adorned with her large-scale works from multiple bodies of work throughout the years. One piece that caught my eye immediately as I came into her home, was the “The Huntress” 92” x 74” x 2” carbon black gesso and oil on canvas. 

Miller said it was part of a body of work she created for her first solo show in June 2021, “Black Universe” at the Terrain Gallery.

Miller’s work has changed a lot in 2022. Miller concentrated on creating smaller works, something a bit outside of her comfort zone, starting the year with a collection of small-scale butterflies. This change in subject matter was a new path for the artist “Just to have fun with it,” Miller said, and to also have paintings at a lower price point. 

At the start of Spring 2022, Miller had her pop-up show at the event’s space, Adjust. The collection was called “Nine Daises,” and these paintings were inspired by the peace-and-love spirit of the 60s and 70s American counterculture. 

Polaroids and Vintage Frames

Many of the references in the show are from vintage erotic magazines. This body of work was exhibited alongside a vintage clothing collection curated by November, a label by creative director, Corinn Bleck. 

Millers’ change in materials was heavily influenced by her part-time job at Spokane Art Supply, where she is completely enamored by the extensive watercolor selection. 

She has been working with watercolors because of their smoother applications and precise minute strokes. Her favorite watercolor brand is M.Graham – the artist talked about the attributes of the paint as if it were a new crush. 

As well as working with her newest medium, watercolors, Miller has taken her joy of photography and turned it into an obsession. This past summer, Miller worked specifically with Instax/Polaroid, capturing small moments within the white border of a polaroid. 

Miller has loved the ability to focus on creating fluid abstract snapshots from these images. Whether it be a cute polaroid of her dog, Gertrude – named after Gertrude Stein, an art collector – or portraits of a collection of friends. Miller would paint these small images on her back patio in the summertime, as painting exercises/warm-ups.

We both talked about our obsession with painting. Miller said she is literally addicted to the act of painting, “It’s a physical exercise, kind of like a dance, and with my larger work, I use my whole body” Miller said. “And then there’s painting with watercolor, where it’s more intimate and the movement is small.”

In her current body of work, Miller is creating collages from found images with her own photography. Her found images are Playboy models from the 70s and self-curated photoshoots with friends creating unique portraits. The beginning of this current series was on display at “Before Us There Was You” a show she co-curated with Sarah Torres at the Terrain Gallery in Summer 2022. 

I am looking forward to seeing this collection in the future, and whatever this artist will paint next. You can view Miller’s work on her website at www.hazelthepainter.com and stay connected via social media @hazelthepainter.

Have you seen any of Hazel Miller’s artwork around the Pacific Northwest? Let us know in the comments below!

Gwyn Pevonka

Gwyn is an artist, addicted to coffee and loves taking adventures with her little family! Gwyn recently transplanted from Knoxville, Tenn., in July 2021, is new to Spokane. While she’s a professional artist, Gwyn is also a tremendous supporter of other local artists and is, in general,  an arts enthusiast. Gwyn is very passionate about connecting with other artists and cultivating a community within Spokane. 

Visit gwyn’s website here.

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