Name: James Miille
Birthday: September 26, 1995
Where are you originally from? Livermore, CA (nearish to San Francisco)
Where do you currently live? Miami, FL
Preferred art medium: Composite photography
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Mark Beard is one of my favorite contemporary artists, his paintings are incredible! other favorites include René Magritte and Salvador Dalí.
I actually really love After the Quake by Haruki Murakami, the scenes within it have an overlying sense of dread, but nothing actually ever happens!
What is your definition of art?
Oh dear, this is always a fun question... My definition of art, I’d say, is tangible manifestation of one’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences, communicated in a way that can be digested by a greater audience, either abstractly or directly.
Briefly describe the circumstances under which you grew up
I grew up on a 22-acre olive orchard in the countryside of Northern California, surrounded by cows, horses, windmills— the whole sh’bang.
How do you think these circumstances influenced your art?
I would say living in the country definitely influenced how I create my art. Now living in major cities like NYC and Miami and traveling the world, I’m often drawn to where the metropolitan meets the natural world.
You completed a 365-day photo project, can you tell us a bit about it?
Back in 2014, I started a project where I produced and shared a new composite image every day for a year (as the name suggests). I started the project out mainly to accelerate my learning curve with photography at a critical point in my career (which certainly did happen), but with it I also met so many new, amazing individuals that I’m proud to call my friends to this day and came into my own as not just a photographer—but an artist. At the end of my project, I featured all 365 photos in my first solo exhibition in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood and have since had solo shows in Paris and Miami as well.
Was it hard producing a new piece every day? How did you find the time with other daily life activities?
Creating a new photo every day certainly conflicted with my daily life! I managed fairly well at the beginning since I started the project in April and had a free summer to focus on it; partway through the challenge, however, I began dating my current partner Alex, and suddenly all those late nights editing photos were being shared by someone else. It took a lot of practice to find out how to balance my photography with the rest of my life (luckily Alex survived that practice period—our three-year anniversary is coming up!)
What would you say are your artwork’s main themes?
Most of my work tends to explore a variety of philosophical and psychological mysteries of the world, offering a visual interpretation of the paths we choose versus fate, or how someone can interpret a normal setting as hostile. I definitely wouldn’t say that I’m answering any of these questions that have been around for centuries, but rather I am sharing my own perspective based on my own experiences.
How would you describe your style?
Very light-based, whether the photo is in a dark setting with a single light source illuminating the entire image or in total daylight where the bright sun and shadows create a dramatic effect.
Can you remember a specific experience from your life that has shaped who you are and what you do as an artist today?
Probably the most significant experience that has shaped my life (and my art) has been making the decision to shift my focus in life to creating Superfine! – The Fairest Fair (aka my other hat) with my partner Alex, an art fair that takes place currently in New York, Mexico City, and Miami that focuses on bringing incredible international artwork into the hands of collectors at all levels. In terms of my artwork, it has demanded that I make much fewer pieces of art (no more 365 challenges!) but also inspired me to think more critically about each and every artwork. Even if I only have time to create 20 images per year, I’m much prouder of those twenty. It’s also inspired a lot of the themes in my work surrounding the crossroads we come to; my life is certainly much different than I predicted since beginning Superfine!, and I’m fascinated by how one decision can change the rest of your life.
“I’m fascinated by how one decision can change the rest of your life.”
What are you communicating with your art?
My own personal experiences and thoughts but in a way that can resonate with anyone looking at my work. Some photos are about my family, some about unrequited past loves, and some about the questions I wonder about that don’t have an answer—but I don’t necessarily want you to know that.
Do you find yourself drawn to any addictive disorder?
I’m interested in anxiety disorders as a family member of mine suffers from severe anxiety over specific places and people, which become “contaminated” in her mind. When you see someone protecting them with a force field or surrounded by a bubble in my artwork, that’s the underlying meaning.
Artists paths are normally non-linear. Can you recall for us what your path has been like?
My path is certainly non-linear, but I suppose that’s common! Most of my technique in photography is self-taught as early as 10 or 12 years old. My family bought me a Nikon D40 for Christmas one year, and I immediately took to it. I did take classes throughout high school and into college, but most of it was learned on the field, if you will, just creating new photos all the time.
What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have to keep the creative juices flowing?
Living a very cultural life is primarily what keeps me inspired and creative. My partner and I travel constantly for work and always visit gallery openings and other art fairs and every little shop you can imagine, and I am always exposed to new experiences and imagery I’ve never encountered before.
Do you think your ethnicity, gender, and/or personal preferences drove you towards becoming an artist?
I certainly would say it did. Growing up as a gay man forced me to find some outlet that I could express the feelings I was experiencing before I felt comfortable enough to be, and art ended up being that outlet.
If you could change one thing in how the world works, what would it be?
I would change the way people approach their own lives and what they do with them. So many people I know follow a very linear trajectory with regards to a career or a relationship, and just below the surface they are clearly unhappy. If someone is dissatisfied with where their life is headed, they should feel free to change their course to something they are more passionate about rather than feeling stuck, and I think our society should endorse that in people.
What is your opinion of the art world as it is right now? is there anything you'd like to change?
As I mentioned before, my partner and I created our art fair Superfine! for exactly this reason. We noticed major flaws in the art market and how artists, galleries, and fairs have all become incredibly inflated and unsustainable, so we wanted to do something about that. With Superfine!, we haven’t cheapened the art fair model—but rather corrected it, offering a platform for artists and galleries alike to exhibit their work in a high-traffic, collector-driven environment that builds and sustains their careers.
“I feel that living in this global, internet-driven world runs the risk of an artist falling into the trap of creating work that appeals to a mass number of people on simply a surface level because it gets a lot of likes”
Describe briefly the current cultural circumstances you live in now?
I live in Miami (which is simultaneously the cultural epicenter of art for part of the year but also an escape from culture altogether) but travel constantly (meaning I’m always exposed to new cultures and experiences).
Miami is a cultural, metropolitan city that also happens to be intertwined with nature in all directions. All in all, I’d definitely say it’s given my work a more tropical flair while exploring that relationship between Man, society, and the natural world.
How do you think the internet aids/complements the art world? And how do you think it deteriorates it?
The internet is an incredibly useful tool for connecting people from all over the world—everyone suddenly feels so close. A collector can discover an artist on the other side of the world just by opening up their Instagram account. The dangerous side of the internet in my opinion is that it creates a false sense of success for a lot of artists; it can be very satisfying and reinforcing to reach several hundred likes on an artwork you post on Instagram, but that crowd is oftentimes neither controlled nor thinking critically (the last photo that person liked could have been a cute puppy or some avocado toast, so they aren’t necessarily liking a picture for its artistic merit). I feel that living in this global, internet-driven world runs the risk of an artist falling into the trap of creating work that appeals to a mass number of people on simply a surface level because it gets a lot of likes.
Did you feel there were a lack of opportunities for you to express your creativity and emerge as an artist? If so, what would you propose to change this?
I was never encouraged by my school to take any art classes, and the ones that did exist felt very peripheral. I honestly feel that art should be a required class growing up rather than an elective; art is integrated into our lives far more than people realize (beyond that piece of art on the wall), and I think we should be promoting these broad applications of art at an early level.
What draws you towards your particular art medium?
I’m especially drawn to creating these seamless photographic collages, if you will, because I am able to bring my own thoughts to life in what appears to be reality—I can work at the intersection of the real world and the imagined.
How have you developed your own unique style?
I actually have my boyfriend Alex to thank for how I’ve developed my own style (they say that you are your own worst critic, but he is!). For a while I began to mimic the styles of other photographers who also make composite photographs (because I looked up to them), but Alex opened my eyes a bit and made me realize I needed to pave my own path with my art instead of comparing myself to others. Since then, I’ve begun making the work that I am most proud of and that I feel best represents the direction I wish to pursue as an artist.
“We noticed major flaws in the art market and how artists, galleries, and fairs have all become incredibly inflated and unsustainable, and we wanted to do something about that– so we created Superfine! Art Fair”
What are the main obstacles you have had to overcome as an artist?
Balance. Art is such a passion of mine, but there are competing factors at hand that limit the amount of time I can dedicate to it. I’ve had to learn how to regularly create new work and always develop as an artist, even if weeks go by at a time that I cannot create a piece. I do so by thinking critically about my work and expand- ing upon ideas for photos I have in between projects, and I am very content with how I’ve achieved that balance.
What project are you currently working on?
Recently I’ve developed a series of images where the individual in the photograph has just come across a floating orb of light that seems to have a life of its own, a physical representation of Fate versus our own decisions—sometimes it seems as though we are in control of our life’s path, and sometimes it feels like our path is presented to us by an outside force. I’m fascinated and perplexed by this uncertainty, and I’ve very much enjoyed exploring it visually.
Any upcoming shows?
Yes! I’m proud to announce both as its Creative Director and as an exhibitor that we are hosting the first New York edition of Superfine! in the Meatpacking District in just a couple weeks during Frieze Art Week (May 4-7). I’d love for anyone in the NYC area to not only come see my work in person, but to see what I do with the other half of my life—and perhaps to gain a new perspective on the art world. Tickets are available at superfinenyc.eventbrite.com, hope to see you there!
“I work at the intersection of the real world and the imagined”