Stephen Millner June, 2018
The Japanese words Tatemae (do what we pretend to believe so that others will like us) and Honne (do what we truly believe is in our soul) have special relevance for the artist. We are often programmed since childhood toward Tatemae—to be slight in our creative aspirations so as to be popular, rather than insightfully truthful. I was fortunate to have parents who allowed me to create art that was true to my soul (Honne), whether it (or I) was liked or not.
My objective as an artist, then, has been to make art that is true to my creative inspiration, free of artificial value judgments. My mixed media and assemblage work incorporates predominantly recycled items: scraps of wrapping paper, newspaper articles, maps, advertising, photographs, envelopes, signs, stickers, stamps, tags, etc.
Often, an otherwise random item will grab my attention and inspire a mixed media or assemblage work. When this happens, the item or image becomes the seed of the artwork. This initial item may trigger a memory, make an association, or ask a question—taking on meaning beyond its literal components.
The developing work of art will put the item in a new context and expand or alter its meaning. Each additional element becomes more critical in terms of color, balance, design, and visual interest, until the work is complete. Other choices are made to finish the work: organization, composition, and color come into play. In fact, the initial inspiration for the art may play only a minor role in the completed work, or may even be obscured by subsequent layers. The initial element may, in the end, be unimportant compositionally, but as the original inspiration for the work, it lays claim to the art’s totality and meaning.
Some of my artistic influences are: El Anatsui, Harry Balmer, Nick Bantock, Walker Evans, Claudia McGill, Robert Rauschenberg, Zoe Strauss, and Andy Warhol.