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Feature

The Ritualist: Steven Miller

Age 44 
Neighborhood Pioneer Square 
Hometown Tucson, Ariz. 
Years of practicing yoga 41 
Favorite movie The Holy Mountain 
Favorite song ever “Regiment” by Brian Eno and David Byrne 
Personal Hero Caravaggio

In 2012, Steven Miller produced six solo shows of hyper-stylized art photography that explored queer identity through humor and exhibition. He was just getting started. This year he plans to team up with some of the city’s most adventurous artists to bring his visions into sharper focus

“Almost every artistic project I do is a ritual on some level,” Miller says. “I’m trying to invoke a feeling or an act.”

Miller is currently working with Ryan Mitchell on a massive 35-foot-long photographic tableau for an upcoming show for the performing arts group St. Genet, as well as a a very secret project with Degenerate Art Ensemble. First, though, he’ll finish a music video for psych-rock band Midday Veil.

Inspired by Miller’s absurdist and dramatic outdoor photo series Wild Boys at SOIL, members of the band asked Miller to direct their next music video late last year. Though he’d done limited video work, Miller agreed. He soon began a deeply strange production, during which a cake made to look like bandmember David Golightly was devoured on camera. It’s weird, yes, but like most of Miller’s work, it pulses with a deep meaning.

His photography is the outgrowth of a long history of tangling art with ritual. It began with his days playing bass in ¡Tchkung!, a mid-’90s industrial percussion group from Seattle with a reputation for riotous, trance-inducing concerts. Since then he’s used his camera to create intimate moments of transcendence by pouring milk over his subjects (in his breakout series Milky from 2004) or asking gay men to make out on public transit (in his recent Reclamation).

“It isn’t just playing dress-up,” Miller says. “I am asking these people to do crazy, sometimes illegal things. I like to think of my camera as making a space where things that normally wouldn’t happen, do.”

Look for Miller’s Midday Veil video soon. His 35-foot-long panoramic tableau for Saint Genet will be on view as part of Paradisiacal Rites in mid-May at On the Boards. Portions of the image will also be popping up about town, though Miller won’t say exactly when or where.

Photo by Dylan Priest. Return to the complete Future List.

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