I was diligently studying Abstract Expressionism with Hans Hoffman, but my hands, or my muse, had another idea.
It first manifested itself in a series of idle doodles that turned out to be persistent in their forms. I dismissed them, but soon, in an elective class on bronze welding, the same sorts of forms began to spill out of the welding torch—a relentless series of decidedly geometric configurations. Primitive at first, they evolved into sophisticated wall sculptures for banks, and liturgical or ceremonial objects for churches and synagogues.
no matter how intricate, they were always based on one of three forms of symmetry. In 1982, I unwittingly developed “virtual sculpture” far before its time. Working with two physicists, we developed a “Symmetricon”, a device which allowed me to create photos of my sculpture that did not otherwise exist. Later, apace with technology, this symmetry followed me into videography, resulting in a kaleidoscopic video.
this symmetry has shown itself in a series of Gicleé, (archival inkjet on canvas). Recently, a scientific journal reported on the basis of attraction, or perceived beauty. They said the basis was symmetry.
So, that’s what I was chasing all along. I was chasing beauty.
Paul Franklin Miller, Artist and Sculptor
Paul Franklin Miller, Jr. (January 23, 1932 – March 29, 2012) was an American sculptor, art educator, and creator of art innovations. Paul’s early influence was at the hands of Hans Hoffman, with whom he studied Abstract Expressionism at Hoffman’s famed Provincetown, MA school. A pivotal point occurred when Paul idly picked up a welding torch. With almost automatic persistence, each piece he created was a study in symmetrical design, which became the focus of his work throughout a lifetime in art. Paul’s symmetrical art is represented in his sculpture, videography and printmaking. Paul’s life in art was immersed in sculpture and art education, primarily as the Artist-in-Residence at Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT), where he taught drawing, painting and sculpture for 25 years.
Paul Franklin Miller was born in Roanoke, Virginia, January 23, 1932. His mother, Daisy Bell Miller, was a schoolteacher and his father, Paul Franklin Miller, Sr., was a retail executive. Paul’s exposure to the arts was both early and constant, as Paul’s mother kept the family engaged in crafting, painting, and pottery. There were costumes to be made for the plays they wrote. T-shirts to be printed. And music. Always music. Paul’s early interest in music came from his father, a musician in his younger days.
At a very young age, Paul became a seeker. He imagined a wonderful world out there, and he sought it the only way a 14-year-old boy could. He built a crystal radio and listened until 2 a.m. to big bands in faraway ballrooms, and sneaked into the black nightclubs in the then segregated southern town, because that was where the music greats were playing. Other nights were spent at the Greyhound Bus station, watching buses depart for somewhere far away and fine.
Paul played in the school band. However, musically accomplished, and quite tall for 14, he traded his band uniform for a powder blue dinner jacket and passed as mature enough to be a saxophonist in the country club dance band.
Life and Career
After high school, Paul enlisted in the Air Force and became a member of the Air Force Band in Wiesbaden, Germany. Paul’s group was the number 1 touring band in Europe, playing all over the Continent and England. An endless stream of dignitaries and VIPs were met with the patriotic strains of Paul’s band. The schedule of the band gave Paul and his mates time off to visit the great museums, galleries and palaces throughout Europe.
After his military experience, Paul enrolled in Richmond Professional Institute (RPI), now Virginia Commonwealth University, the #1 rated public art college in America. RPI had a robust art school, in which Paul immersed himself. During the summers, Paul traveled to Provincetown, MA and studied under the famed Abstract Impressionist, Hans Hoffman. It has been said, “Hoffman may well be the most experienced and successful teacher of painting of this century. The demanding and explicit standards he sets for the artist should therefore be regarded thoughtfully.”* Summers at the Cape were immersed in the teachings of Hoffman as well as mixing with a heady assemblage of professional musicians, writers and artists. At the Cape, Paul talked music and art with the likes of Zoot Sims, Jerry Mulligan, Norman Mailer and other luminaries from the New York art world.
*Source: William C. Seitz, Hans Hoffman, The Museum of Modern Art, 1963, Distributed by Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York, p. 15.
Back at RPI, Paul picked up a torch and welded bronze sculptures, with crude symmetry at first, but ultimately with welds so flawless, few artists could equal them. This experience turned out to be the stepping-stone for a lifetime of sculpture and artistic innovation. Paul’s quest for something more that he felt as a teenager, returned with a vengeance. Every weekend, while studying for his Masters degree, Paul would catch a Greyhound Bus and sleep on the trip to New York, so as to stay awake for marathon jams at the Jazz Loft.
After college, Paul moved to New York City and immersed himself in the heady atmosphere of the time. On a nightly basis, he would soak up all the culture available in the city. Franz Klein and Robert Motherwell held forth in the Cedar Bar in the West Village where they put their unique spin on Abstract Expressionism. Some of the biggest names in jazz, Thelonious Monk, Zoot Sims, Al Cohen, Woody Herman, and any other jazz great or near great would drop in to jam in their own private world, the studio of David X. Young, artist, friend, and jazz fiend. Capturing these bold face jam sessions was W. Eugene Smith, a celebrated photographer who had the loft upstairs. Smith recorded the scene with some 40,000 images.
Paul was named Artist-in-Residence at Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT), where he taught drawing, painting and sculpture for 25 years. Paul not only taught art, he studied it himself for a lifetime and conversed about art subjects endlessly with like-minded people. As a teacher, Paul taught engineering students the importance of art in their lives and careers. At Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT). Paul taught art and advocated exposure to it. He and his wife, Nancy Miller took students on Saturday excursions across the river to museums and galleries.
Paul was a consultant for collaborative sculpture workshops, a lecturer on the work of Alexander Calder, who graduated from SIT in 1919. He was a judge of various art shows, including the Asian Indian Show in 1980. Paul was the graphic set designer for Lunar LTD Film Company.
Miller’s wall sculptures and outsized standing figures were commissioned by New York City financial institutions, churches, synagogues, and the collections of Robert Graves and others.
Symmetricon Kaleidoscopic Projector
Paul, with a technical assist from 2 physicists, created a kaleidoscopic projector named the Symmetricon. The Symmetricon can produce countless symmetrical configurations as stimulation for Paul’s wall sculptures. A 35mm slide of one of Paul’s sculptures was placed in the Symmetricon. A section of the art was selected and projected in 4-fold symmetry on a screen, in other words, virtual sculpture, long before computers made that possible. Paul kept the designs he liked and filed them for future use. An important feature of the Symmetricon was how it supplemented Paul’s imagination, making a gamut of design possibilities accessible to him.
Electronic Dimmer for the Viewing of Art
When Paul began making welded sculptures that possess intricate geometric designs within a circular norm, he soon noticed that a slight change in the viewer’s vantage point produced a dramatic difference in the appearance of the art object.
Paul found he could duplicate this experience by providing alternating directions of illumination. Paul presented the challenge to 2 of his engineering students, Richard Szmauz and Richard Taborek. They developed an automatic electronic device that caused light to be produced from 2 sources alternately at predetermined intervals. Thus giving Paul the desired artistic effect.
Paul has exhibited at William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, 1958; Valentine Museum, Richmond, VA, 1958; Virginia Museum, Richmond, VA, 1961; H.C.E. Gallery, Provincetown, MA, 1961; American House, New York, NY, 1961-1964; Museum of Contemporary Arts & Crafts, New York, NY, 1962; Karilon Gallery, Provincetown, MA, 1962; Galleria de Bellardo, New York, NY, 1962; Exhibition Hall, Philadelphia, PA, 1962; Tasco Gallery, New York, NY, 1966; JWT Gallery, New York, NY, 1962; Gallery of Contemporary Christian Art, New York, NY, several group shows from 1966-1972; Stevens Center Gallery, one man shows, 1972, 1978, 1979. Wreden Gallery Roanoke, VA, 1980 to present; Fletcher Jones Gallery, Richmond, VA, 1992; The Hand Gallery, Buffalo, NY, 1996; Tokyo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1997; Anderson Gallery, New York, NY, 1999.
Miller’s wall sculptures and outsized standing figures were commissioned by New York City financial institutions, churches, synagogues, and the collections of Robert Graves, Peter Wreden, Alison Cohen, Richard Widdecomb and others.