The Japanese words Honne (what we truly believe in our soul) and Tatemae (what we pretend to believe so that others will like us) have special relevance for the artist. We are often programmed in childhood toward Tatemae—to alter our creative aspirations so as to be popular rather than to give unfettered freedom to our creative inspirations. I am grateful to my parents, who encouraged me to express my creativity honestly (Honne), by not imposing value judgments that might make my art more “normal” or “popular.”
My path as an artist, then, has been to make art that is true to my creative inspiration. As a mixed media artist, I utilize a wide variety of materials, most of them recycled: discarded wrapping paper, newspaper and magazine clippings, maps, advertising, photographs, envelopes, signs, stickers, stamps, tags, hardware, scrap wood, etc. Often, a new piece of art begins when an item grabs my attention and demands to be used as the beginning of a mixed media work.
When this occurs, the item or image becomes the seed of a work of art. This seed may trigger a memory, make an association, or ask a question—taking on meaning beyond its literal components.
Often, 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. Of course, 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 obliterated by subsequent layers. How fascinating that my completed art is inspired by a small piece of paper or ephemera. Even though this first element placed on the canvas may, in the end, be unimportant compositionally, as the original inspiration for the work, it lays claim to the art’s totality and meaning.
Born in Ventura, California, Stephen Millner grew up in New York City and Trenton, New Jersey. He received BA in Fine Arts from Yale University, and earned graduate degrees from the University of Maine and Wayne State University. At Yale, he studied photography with Walker Evans and John T. Hill, printmaking with Gabor Peterdi, and graphic design with Herbert Matter. Other influences at Yale were artist Jack Tworkov, art historian Vincent Scully, and cultural icon Buckminster Fuller. He began his art career as a photographer, printmaker, and metal sculptor. Millner studied sculpture with New Hope, PA artist, Harry Balmer. His works have been shown in galleries in New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Millner’s photography is characterized by bold graphic elements and ambiguous imagery. His mixed media work makes use of original photographs, childhood memorabilia, maps, postal ephemera, and magazine and newspaper images, often with witty and humorous juxtapositions. Some of his work concerns political issues. For five years, Millner was the founding president of Artists of Yardley (artistsofyardley.org), bringing the group from twenty members to over one hundred, and organizing its various community and art show events that continue today. He is married to poet Marie Kane, (Bucks County Poet Laureate, 2006); they reside in Yardley, Pennsylvania. His website is stephenmillner.com. He also manages an online gallery called Summer of Love Posters. Some of Millner’s artistic influences are: El Anatsui, Harry Balmer, Nick Bantock, Walker Evans, Claudia McGill, Robert Rauschenberg, Zoe Strauss, and Andy Warhol.
Awards & Honors
2000 First Prize, Yardley Canal Festival Poster Contest