Refraction is the scientific principle that describes how light bends or changes direction when it passes from one substance into another. Lenses, prisms, magnifying glasses and rainbows are good examples of this occurrence. Whether it’s filtering through palm trees or dancing through water, light presents an endless well of inspiration for St. Johns County visual artist Anna Miller.
“It’s not only a scientific term for me, it’s almost like my perception,” she explains. “The colors [and] lights passing through my perception and reflected in my paintings are like a reflection of nature.”
The native Ukrainian has called St. Johns County home for more than a decade, residing there with her husband, two school-aged children and two dogs. She enjoys the laid-back lifestyle and year-round greenery.
“I love gardening, so I have a collection of plants in my garden,” Miller says. “They’re very inspirational to me. I love the light. I love the sun. A lot of my paintings have that glow of gardens and light.”
In addition to celebrating the beauty and scientific splendor of the natural world, Miller’s work is a distinct form of communication. The artist aims to awaken her viewer’s emotions with a different mood in each work. She compares abstraction to instrumental music.
“Music is abstract in its nature,” she explains. “There’s no words, there’s no story behind it but it evokes emotion–happy or sad or joyous. It’s the same with abstract painting. It evokes emotion.”
Colorful and kaleidoscopic, Miller’s abstract creations are a burst of lively energy that instantly captivates the soul.
“I have been drawing and painting ever since I could hold a pencil,” she laughs. Her early paintings were purely figurative, and while she still does figurative work, abstraction is now her passion. Her unique style is influenced in part by how she sees the world–quite literally.
“I have been nearsighted for most of my life and lots of times, I do not see all the details without my glasses,” Miller says. “I prefer not to wear glasses unless I drive. So I often see patterns, interesting designs, fragments of light with shadows, incomplete patterns. And those patterns are translated into my paintings. I’m not able to see details, so I come up with my own details. It’s sort of my own translation of the world around me.”
Working as a full-time artist at Riverside’s CoRK Arts District and being a full-time mother are challenges that keep Miller busy. She’s been working on her abstract series, Refractions, for about three years. The collection debuts in two unique, separate but complementary shows this season.
Refractions: The Art of Anna Miller is an Art in Public Spaces Exhibition held at St. Johns County Administration Building’s Rotunda in St. Augustine. Her works are displayed alongside original local poetry created by the Ancient City Poets collective, reflecting the diverse artistic talents of the region.
“It’s an amazing space,” Miller says. “It’s very beautiful. It’s bright and it really becomes a unique experience when you come to the space.”
In addition, Miller’s work will be featured at The Vault at 1930 from Jan. 25 through Feb. 11. This show is being held to support and promote Miller’s St. Johns County exhibition. Both are connected by the common theme of refraction.
If you’re familiar with Jacksonville’s art scene, you’ve likely seen Miller’s work. She’s popular with local collectors, and her paintings have been featured in several area shows.
Born in Kiev, Miller studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts & Architecture in Ukraine. After moving to the U.S., she earned her MFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and taught college art classes. She’s continued to teach for 17 years and enjoys inspiring budding artists to follow their passion.
“Don’t give up. Keep going,” she encourages aspiring artists of all ages. “And don’t be scared to make mistakes.”
Miller continues to find new inspiration locally.
“I’m impressed how in the last decade the Jacksonville and St. Johns areas have grown, and I see so much interest in development culturally,” she says. “I believe we have a great place to be.”
Peaceful and reflective, Anna Miller’s work proves a stunning reminder of the beautiful artistry that science and nature have to offer and just how splendid the natural world is when we slow down to appreciate the depths of it colors, shadows and designs. It’s truly refreshing to see the world anew through her lens.