January 21, 2014
Keri Mills and I meet at Common Grounds Coffee on W. 44th Ave. Denver at 1:30 in the afternoon. It is January yet we sit by an open window, with warm air wafting in. Keri lives in Arvada and this coffee house is convenient for us, and pleasant.
May I ask you your age?
Where were you born?
I was born in Grand Junction however I am an "Army brat" and have lived in many places. My family moved quite a bit, we spent time in many southern states as well as a very formative period (for me) in Germany.
How long have you lived in Denver?
I have lived here continually since 1992. After my father retired from the military we returned to Colorado. My parents have always called Colorado home. My mother went to North High School and my father to South High School.
Are there any highlights from earlier times in your life that you would like to share?
Spending a good deal of my childhood in Germany was incredibly important. At first I went to school on a base, from kindergarten through 2nd grade and from 4th through 6th grades. Being in Germany was a tremendous influence, the old cities and cobblestone streets. There were beautiful cathedrals and mansions with fantastic art, mostly frescoes.
When did art, and art making, first become a part of your life?
I always made art. In school I would often get in trouble for making art in class. As I got older, toward high school, my parents dissuaded me from taking art classes - they had concerns that art making often does not lead to financial stability. I was also a dancer, and I had a real aptitude for math and science. In college I studied to be an aeronautical engineer and I also studied psychology. Generally though, I would say I was searching, searching...
(Keri has three children, ages 25, 20 and 13.) Because I had children when I was young, it was not until I was around 30 that I rediscovered my passion for art. I enrolled in a painting class (watercolor) at Red Rocks. Soon after I enrolled at C.U. Boulder to study painting and photography. I went to school part time and eventually earned my degree.
How has this formal training in school informed you artistically?
My senior thesis exhibition was very formative. I created a body of work that drew upon my interests and passions for both painting and photography. To this day this provides the foundation for my art. The photography darkrooms were poorly ventilated (at the time) and this drove me to experiment with computers and Photoshop. This software is fundamental to my work. I can really get into a photograph pixel by pixel and manipulate the image, much as you would a painting.
Can you describe you artistic processes?
I have very large databases comprised of a variety of images. Some images are from nature, of clouds and the land. Other images are of models and of my children. Because of my experience as a dancer I am very sensitive to the human figure. I am sensitive to the emotions conveyed through the human form. Images are brought in from my database and form the work of art. I am always working on the screen. I zoom in and zoom out, always editing. Creating my work feels like painting.
How would you describe your work? How does it present itself visually?
Images have the feel of painting from an older period. They are not specifically photographs because nothing is necessarily "real" - so much has been manipulated, and photographs have been overlaid. The images are dreamlike. I consider my images to be like self-portraits, not literally, yet emotionally because they present an aspect of myself - what I feel at that particular time.
Is content important?
This depends. I am more interested in the emotional connection that an image can create. I must feel an emotional connection to the image I select and incorporate. What I feel is not necessarily what the viewer might feel. That is OK. Still, I must feel something. If the image does not convey an emotion for me I will discard it before it leaves my studio.
Do you have any expectations of the viewer?
No, except that I hope the viewer feels something. Again, their response may be very different from mine (as I was creating the work). I want my work to inspire a process within the viewer where they connect with their emotional truth. I do not place parameters on my art in that I do not have expectations of how the viewer ought to react.
Do you have any final thoughts?
The creative process is an intrinsic part of myself. It is my way of connecting to the world. There are times when I am observant and absorb the world, and there are the times when I create the work. Creation can be difficult, a kind of love-hate relationship where you can be forced to confront truths about yourself. This is balanced by the joy of making the art.