By John Chambless
Dan Miller's wooden constructions are every bit as complex and meticulously composed as paintings – and a good bit harder to create.
There are 40 of his “Assemblages” on display at Bookplace in Oxford, and each one is made of bits of vintage wood – some sanded, some left with natural patina, some subtly painted and others left raw. Sometimes they clearly reflect their titles, and other times they seem to be exercises in abstraction.
“It Works,” for instance, is a collection of gears and levers that looks like it should do something, but as you stand and work out how the gears mesh, it's pretty clear that it probably doesn't work. But it's intriguing to decipher how all the pieces fit together.
As a veteran painter and instructor with more than 49 one-man shows to his credit, Miller has a keen eye for color as well as composition, and many of the pieces here use subtle hues as accents. “On One Wheel” has a nice palette and resembles a unicyclist, precariously balanced on one wheel. But it could also be an abstract clock with a swinging pendulum.
“Wheel House” only has three small color accents to draw your eye. “Dog” is similarly colored, and does suggest a cartoon dog.
The large-scale works, such as “The Mill,” are more spectacular, using warm wood tones and interlocking shapes to immerse you in their fascinating worlds. The large horizontal work, “Troy,” does indeed resemble a row of ancient buildings.
“Bird King” is a totem-like construction with semicircular pieces attached to it, suggesting plumage. It uses only the most subtle colors, showcasing its range of burnished antique surfaces.
Both labor-intensive and texturally satisfying, Miller's works reflect long hours of contemplation on the part of the artist, who clearly has a knack for combining hundreds of bits of antique wood and coming up with strikingly original artworks.
Dan Miller's “Assemblages” continues through Oct. 27 at Bookplace (2373 Baltimore Pike, Oxford). Hours are Friday from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Call 717-951-6418 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.