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Living Color

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Artist Charlie Miller painted Memphis. Color-soaked renderings of Jack's Food Store, A. Schwab, and the Lamplighter lounge dripped from his brush, as did sprawling landscapes, brooding portraits, and still lifes crafted in the tradition of the Cape Cod school of color visualists. Miller, who was part of the first graduating class of Memphis College of Art to spend all four years of study at the Overton Park campus, died earlier this year after a brief struggle with cancer. He was 65 years old.

When a notoriously eccentric Memphis arts writer told Miller that he liked to be wined and dined by the artists he wrote about, the painter, known for spending his evening hours in some of Midtown's more colorful dives, respectfully declined the offer of expanded press coverage, saying, "I'm awfully particular about who I drink with." Miller had no use for critics, and he mistrusted gallery owners. He made his living by painting signs and selling artwork out of his home.

In 1964, as abstract expressionism was playing out and pop art was taking over, Miller decided to go against the grain of critical opinion. He hopped into a Chevy Impala convertible and drove to Cape Cod to take lessons from the innovative color theorist Henry Hensche, whose approach to painting was handed down, in part, from the venerated American Impressionist painter and teacher William Merritt Chase.

A retrospective of Miller's work opens on Friday, April 18th, at Askew Nixon Ferguson, with a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The exhibit runs for two weeks, closing on Friday, May 2nd. According to curator David Leonard, at least 40 paintings will be on display and perhaps many more.

"The Life and Art of Charlie Miller" at Askew Nixon Ferguson Architects through May 2nd. Opening reception Friday, April 18th, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

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