- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) - Only an artist could assemble such an eclectic résumé.

Jim Miller, 71, of Hempfield has been a monk, an author and an archaeologist, and a photographer, printmaker, painter and metaphysician. He converted the former Westmoreland Glass Co. factory and warehouse into a gallery, studio and living space for himself; his dog, Barney; and other creative types.

Every step and change of scenery was viewed with an artist’s eye.

“He lives as an artist,” said Jonathan Nakles, Miller’s longtime friend. “Everything he sees, everything he does is as an artist. … It’s uncommon.”

“A lot of artists (create) for different reasons. Jim does it because he has no choice,” Nakles added. “Some artists who are real artists, they don’t have an option. They have to create.”

Now, 28 West Second Gallery and Studio Space in Greensburg is exhibiting a collection of Miller’s work titled, “Mostly Trucks,” through Oct. 4.

The “Mostly Trucks” exhibit, aptly named, features images of trucks and industrial vehicles in varying states of disrepair. Miller photographed them between his time as a monk and his career as an archaeological field technician.

Some of the pieces in the gallery were printed from the original Kodachrome film, many others from black-and-white photos Miller colored by hand.

“Trucks for some reason fascinate me,” Miller said. “They seem to have a symbolic value.”

Miller grew up in Cambria County and became a brother candidate at the St. Vincent Benedictine Monastery, where he studied and served for 12 years.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, Miller made the abrupt transition from the monastic life at St. Vincent to bustling Brooklyn and the Pratt Institute to pursue a master’s degree in printmaking.

“It was really a culture shock,” he recalled. “Going to Pratt, I remember walking down the hall of one of the Pratt studios and there’s a naked girl walking down the hall. She was a model on her break and she was just out in the hall wandering around with nothing on. It was culture shock going from a monastery to that.”

After Brooklyn, it was back to Greensburg, additional graduate studies in New York and a second return to Greensburg, where he has authored six books. He’s working on a seventh book in addition to displaying his artwork in more than three dozen exhibits.

“Mostly Trucks” is his first exhibit of all photographs, and Miller said he wasn’t sure whether his experimentation with the old photographs would turn out as messes or masterpieces.

“I’m not a sign painter, I’m not the kind of person who has a technique down,” he admitted. “Each one is a struggle. You never know if it’s going to come out or not.

“Some people, they have these methods of doing stuff, and it’s almost a foregone conclusion that it’s going to do a great job. It’s never that way for me. It’s always like starting out from nowhere and hoping you’ll get somewhere,” he said.

For 28 West Second, hosting its third exhibit of Miller’s work since opening in 2009, “Mostly Trucks” was a natural fit.

“Jim has a very unique perspective,” said Michelle Eng-Bendik, co-owner of the gallery. “He’s like an everyman. He’s a historian, a printmaker, a philosopher, and you really see that in his work. It’s not like a vacuum. For me, it’s an all-around representation of how Jim’s mind works.”

“If you figure it out, let me know,” Miller quipped.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1rC8OLk

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Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, https://pghtrib.com


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