Ruth Miller is a portrait artist who works with pencil to create her works. But it doesn’t stop there. From the drawings comes artwork that takes on a certain intimacy through the medium of embroidery.
Miller, a New York City native, now lives in Picayune with her mother, who is a Mississippi native. Her works are in a new exhibition, “Thinking Art into Being,” at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi through Aug. 19.
From a distance, the embroidered works look like paintings, even photographs. Get closer, and you can see the stitches, like strokes of colored pencils. Get even closer, and you see the threads often blend together to create specific colors. Red, orange, brown and cream work together to create the exact shade and shine of a gold hoop earring.
That’s not embroidery floss. Instead, Miller uses wool yarn and sewing machine thread.
“I don’t use the embroidery floss,” she said. “It doesn’t come in as many colors as the wool or the sewing machine thread. Mine comes in over 400 colors, so there’s less mixing to do, but I do mix if the colors are not available.”
In the exhibition, Miller includes charts that show the process in creating one of her works. A photograph is the starting point for a sketch which becomes a pencil drawing. From there, Miller does another drawing, this one incorporating color.
“I do two drawings,” she said. “The line drawing is the basis of what goes on the fabric. And then there’s one with the color, with the shading and shadows.”
Miller embroiders using a wooden canvas stretcher, much like the ones used by artists who paint their works.
She has served as her own model, and she also finds people in everyday life who pose for her. The woman featured in “Congregants” and “Our Lady of Unassailable Well-being,” for example, was a client sitting in her daughter’s hair salon one day.
“She was so animated,” Miller said. “She was sitting comfortably as we were chatting, and you could see her thinking. Her expression changed moment to moment. I thought it would be interesting to replicate that. She was courageous enough to be that open, and I admire that.”
For the exhibition, Miller has supplied backstories on each of her works on display. She also has an “on your way out” comment, encouraging others to try their own version. That, she said, is a reason she added the charts with her works.
“I really wanted to do something to get people interested. This is not just for my benefit but so people could see something that they could start making. I want people to not be intimidated and to appreciate the final piece but also the process involved. I wanted to demystify it.”
If you go
What: ‘Thinking Art into Being: Ruth Miller’s Contemporary Embroidery.’ The exhibition is up through Aug. 19.
Where: Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, 386 U.S. 90, Biloxi
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.
Admission: $10 adults (18 and over), $8 seniors (60 and over); $5 students (with identification); $8 AAA and military with ID; free for children under 5. Members get in free; show your membership card at the front desk.
More: Miller will present a gallery talk from 1 to 3 p.m. July 29 at the Ohr. She will discuss her artistic resume’, influences and inspiration.