Kory Miller uses art as an extension of soul
By Alli Jenney
What is art? For many, art is something to be appreciated. Art is a form of expression born into the world for others to derive their own views and opinions from. For Kory Miller, a sophomore art education major, art is far beyond what is appealing to the eye. For Miller, “art is an extension of your soul.”
Born and raised in Flagstaff, Miller has touched upon drawing, sketching, street art, graphic design, PhotoShop, film and almost every other media within the realm of art.
“Art for me is being able to be in my most vulnerable form,” Miller said. “I’m able to communicate something really personal to my heart through this medium. Whether that’s through portraiture and taking someone’s face and having it be so torn and broken and visually seeing that, or the exact opposite, having just an aesthetically pleasing piece that brings a lot of joy just off of visuals.”
Miller’s true love is painting, because it is his ideal escape and pure form of expression. He also explains that he purposefully chooses colors that are stimulating to the eye.
“It’s not because I like bright colors, it’ll literally derive an emotion out of you,” Miller says, ”and so I think art to me is being able to say everything I desire without using my mouth.”
Miller finds it difficult to go about his day without doing something creative. During the summer, it is easier, because he can just wake up and paint. Now, with school and a 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. job, it is harder to find time. However, it mostly stems from an, “Oh, well I don’t got anything going on. I’m going to paint. I’m going to pour into that,” situation.
Miller’s passion for art began while attending Flagstaff Middle School where his teacher, Mrs. Kramer, allowed him to tap into his abilities. She shared techniques and skills which proved his potential lay within. Now at 19 years old, Miller still credits Mrs. Kramer as his mentor who had guided him down a path toward his future.
“Not only did she teach me to follow through to put my soul into art, but she pushed me,” reflects Miller. “I don’t think if she was in my life I would’ve pursued art at all. I probably would’ve just given up on it.”
At 17 years old, Miller began looking into local studios and galleries, introducing himself to owners and acknowledging his interest in showing his artwork. However, due to his age he was disregarded by many as nothing more than just some kid. Local artists were unwilling to share their knowledge or show interest in pointing him in the right direction.
He was 18 years old when he discovered those willing to give him the time of day were not necessarily artists themselves, but they were people within the community who loved art.
Since then, he has been working at Marric Studios on Birch Street in Downtown Flagstaff, where he not only creates his paintings in a studio, but displays his work as well. During the non–show season, however, Miller transitions to focus on commissions or production work. From product designs for t–shirts, iPhone cases, Vans, TOMS and Converse shoes to preparing for the show season itself, Miller uses this time to create new works.
Within the past year, support from his family and the community has transformed Miller.
“From being a student who does art, to a Flagstaff artist. The community has embraced me really well,” Miller says. “Not necessarily other artists, but galleries, spaces, individuals, companies. I’ve gotten just crazy calls from weird people who desire my art in their buildings. I’m working with the city right now and have a wall mural coming soon on Birch Street.”
Despite the local fame, Miller remains humble and feels blessed for all the support regarding the prestige that is far more mature than his age.
“Not all the time can you put yourself out there and have people respond in a positive way,” Miller says. “I have yet to have anybody here who has told me that my potential is limited. I’ve never experienced anyone saying that my art doesn’t communicate what I desire to communicate and so it’s been a real blessing.”
This admiration comes in large part by the nature of his work. Miller is open to having acquaintances or even strangers share their story with him. He encourages people with his catch phrase: “If you are vulnerable and willing enough to share your story, I will give you an image in return.”
Some people request a certain symbolism of significance in their lives, while others allow Miller to present what he wishes.
“This is kind of a blessing how this happens, but every single time I read their story, about halfway through I’ll have a concept of what I want to paint before I even finish,” Miller says. “It’s just a process of ‘this is the story and you are the storyteller’, and I am the artist and together we can create what is a redemption piece for your life.”
To Miller, each painting communicates something different and reaches out to someone, specifically their life story.
“To me, that’s the most precious thing that you could paint, and each piece holds a lot of inspiration for me because it comes from somebody else’s life,” he shares.
In addition to commissions and feats of creativity, Miller invests time to create lesson plans for kids and meets with them at their houses for personal consultations. Almost as passionate about kids as he is about art, he enjoys teaching kids to tap into their creativity — especially those who claim they are not artists.
To him, it is important to involve himself with the community, establish social connections with people and offer them the background behind his works.
“In any way, shape or form I’m going to have to start either a program for kids, which my major is going to help give me the credentials to start along with a lot of community backing,” Miller says. “I love the kids who come in and they tell me they are not artists. Every elementary kid tells you that they’re an artist. I love being able to inspire creativity within a kid because it is there; sometimes it’s not in a fashion or medium that I’m into like painting or drawing, but I think that’s okay, and as a teacher I want to be able to spark that creativity in any individual.”
Through his schooling, even at the collegiate level, Miller believes art education does not fully provide the correct opportunities to allow artists to flourish. In his opinion, instead of allowing more freedom, teachers have felt inclined to attempt to mold talent within their youth. And with budget cuts attacking art programs and resources, the few opportunities available are dwindling.
“I believe art really is . . . like this creative media to just show somebody what’s going on in your life, within your heart,” Miller says. “It gives you another mouth, through your hand. I think art teachers in the past have been okay, but I would love to see art turned into more of an emotional factor than a standardized component.”
In teaching his pupils, as well as in his own personal experience, Miller has come across the age–old artistic myth of “there are no such things as mistakes.” Instead of viewing mistakes negatively, Miller embraces them throughout his creative process.
“[A] mistake is a part of the process,” Miller says. “The mistake needs to be deferred into a language more along the process of the piece and not in itself a mistake, because we as creators have the ability to go in and fix that mistake and that relies heavily on our motivation and our drive within ourselves to see a piece come out truly how we want it.”
“One of my favorite teachers, she told me that my opinion is never wrong. What my hand is doing is never wrong, but if it’s not where we want it to be then we have the power and the ability to get it to where we want it to be. And I think that’s true in any state of life or in any state of struggle and pain.”
Miller wishes his art to be viewed as interactive, so audiences do not feel as though they are simply staring at the wall. He hopes people grasp an emotional connection with each piece, and he wants individuals to see they have the opportunity to become one of his paintings.
“On a one on one conversation, if someone’s willing to pour out their heart and they desire an image, that’s my heart,” says Miller. “That’s what I do and that’s what will happen.”
Check out more of Miller’s art online and follow him on Facebook at, www.facebook.com/korymillerart. Learn more about the stories and pieces and do not hesitate to email him and share your own at, firstname.lastname@example.org.