PR Miller passes welding torch to younger artists
As a fringe artist who makes use of discarded and scrap materials, PR Miller has been called The Junkman by some, but he’s embraced that sometimes derogatory moniker and has transformed public perceptions about what constitutes art.
Miller, who’s long been an outspoken force in the world of outsider art, will move on to “blue-er” pastures, Blueberry Hill Family Farms outside of Loudonville, Ohio, to be exact. And as he opens a new chapter in his life that includes blueberry farming, he’s passing the (welding) torch to local artists Michael Marras and Megan Shane with an installation at Gallery 15 in East Akron.
All three artists merge their talents into a theme of growth, nature and industrial imagery. Miller’s giant flowers, Shane’s elegant flora and Marras’ imaginative steampunk-style caretakers work together to make this Rust Belt fairy tale a unique experience. Figures crouch on the roof of the gallery, metal vines hang down the sides of the building, and the sci-fi-inspired gardener lend the exhibit a taste of true public art in a developing area.
“I think public art’s a reminder of self expression, inspiring a different pattern of thought,” said Shane, who also works with jewels and gemstones.
Since he was a child, Marras said public art like Don Drumm’s visible work and PR Miller’s sculptures would inspire his later work.
Shane said PR Miller approached her a number of years ago, when he saw her art at her father’s steel fabrication shop. “I’ve always appreciated how bold his art is, and how it has prominent placement in the community.”
Metal work has been her family trade, and Shane says she appreciates the permanence of using industrial materials and immortalizing her artwork. She also likes manipulating industrial materials into more feminine pieces like the vines and three-dimensional stars.
And the theme of nature is a significant one for Miller, who will become the artist in residence at Phil Nabors’ blueberry farm. Nabors, along with family members, owns Mustard Seed Market, which will open a new location in Highland Square in fall of 2014.
Miller’s style won’t soon be forgotten. “I grew up in a scrap yard,” he said. “My playground as a child was the town dump.” He said he supported himself through college on a garbage truck, and he’s been in the demolition business most of his life. A lot of his art, he adds, arises from materials acquired from his demolition jobs.
The young artists, both of whom are contestants in the current Akron Art Prize competition, say they see Akron’s art scene growing more each year.
Blueberry Hill Farms is a 66-acre farm with 15 acres of blueberry bushes. Although Miller’s moving, he promises that he will return to Akron frequently. However, he is looking forward to a quieter, more bucolic life.
Shane’s artwork can be found at local galleries and business such as Hazel Tree Interiors on West Market Street, and the Wolf Creek Trading Company in Copley. To find out more about Marras, visit mwmarras.com.
Gallery 15 is located at 15 Broad St. in East Akron.