Words by Melanie Jane Parker
In July 2013, Nic Annette Miller packed up her trusty skil saw and her beloved dog Sheila and moved across the country to Brooklyn. She had established her reputation as a full-time freelance printmaker and graphic designer in Salt Lake City, but when the call came from Tattly, a Dumbo-based temporary tattoo company (founded by her idol, Tina Roth Eisenberg), Nic was easily convinced. “I couldn’t say no,” she explained over cups of tea at Red Lantern Bicycles in Fort Greene. “I’m still doing printmaking on the side, but my dedication is to Tattly.”
“On the side” might be a modest understatement, considering Nic’s evident tendency towards an eclectic and prolific artist practice. She is best known for her woodcuts of animal heads — ecologically conscious takes on classic hunting lodge trophies. The animal head series was inspired by Sheila, Nic’s own vegetarianism and an interest in the tension between the hyper-masculine pursuit of prey and the reverence for natural beauty that seem to co-exist in hunting culture.
“What I really like about animals is that you’re not judging their gender,” she said. “It’s especially interesting in hunting — these strong men who carry guns and are killing, they think the beast is beautiful.”
From the austere valleys of Utah to the schizoid streets of New York, Nic is adjusting to shifts in her sense of direction as well as her aesthetic orientation.
“I realize I miss nature quite a bit, even though it’s so exciting to be here. I’ve been thinking a lot about compasses. In Utah, the mountains were always to the east of me, and that’s how I knew where I was. One thing that’s thrown me off is not knowing where my mountains are.”
Currently shacked up at Gowanus Studio Space, Nic is planning an extension of her bird woodcut series using a wider variety of species, including birds native to Brooklyn. The birds, which were first installed at Stolen & Escaped Gallery in Salt Lake City, are individually watercolored and differentiated by three wing orientations. She is also engaged in screenprinting and letterpress projects, and retails her work through venders like A&G Merch (San Francisco and Brooklyn), Made (Jackson Hole), and FoundRe (Chicago). Notably, Nic is intent upon steadily building her community of fellow makers and creators.
“I think what helps is that I talk a lot,” she shrugged. “People do keep to themselves. I’ve been told I walk like a New Yorker, really fast. But I do think you should still look around and realize what opportunities there are.”
True to her word, Nic has her eyes and ears wide open to what her immediate environment has to offer.
“When I was here in May, there was a lady on the subway, and she was signing to herself. My mom’s deaf, which is part of why I think I’m so visual. I was thinking, should I talk to her? People in New York don’t do that. But I was like, why not? I signed to her, ‘Are you deaf?’ She’s like, ‘No, I’m just practicing. Are you deaf?’ I signed back, ‘No, my mom is.’ We were signing and then we talked, and it turned out she worked at the Whitney Museum. She told me they have a great deaf program. That was inspiring for me to hear. I want to bring my mom here and show her art in New York. I love that a simple gesture could lead to a really big conversation.”
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