Press Release for “The Sea Around Us”




The Sea Around Us, Max Greenleaf Miller at James Goodman Gallery, New York, NY (January 20-24, 2020)


Max Greenleaf Miller in his exhibition of new paintings and sculpture, “The Sea Around us” (inspired by and taking the title of the famous book by Rachel Carson) weaves natural history, lyrical painting and the science of the Anthropocene into an meditation on loss, transformation and the sublime.


The seascapes are the lyrical center of Greenleaf Miller’s practice. Drawn from the artist’s travels, these images are linked to specific locations from as close as Fire Island and Montauk to as far away as the arctic ocean off of Svalbard describe an environment with no identifying markers, shrouded in mist and in a state of ceaseless transformation.  The paradoxical qualities of the seascapes, being both calming and restless, beautiful and ominous, places Greenleaf Miller’s work in the tradition of the painted sublime.


Greenleaf Miller’s preoccupation with the intersection of aesthetic pleasure, transfiguration and cataclysm led him to an investigation of the fossil record from the Cretaceous- Paleogene extinction event which has informed a number of paintings in the exhibit. Taking place 66 million years ago when a large asteroid or comet struck the earth in what is now the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, the impact caused the extinction of 75% of earth’s flora and fauna. The pair of paintings “Rock Face with K-Pg Boundary I and II” are sourced from images of geologic strata showing the layer of ash from that catastrophic event. Related also is the painting “Shocked Quartz” shows a mineral transformed by the asteroid impact into a crazed iridescence. Greenleaf Miller transforms again the altered quartz and through the practice of painting and finds lyrical possibilities in this artifact of an ancient trauma.


In other works Greenleaf Miller turns toward the current extinction event we are living through, the Anthopocene. “The Dissolution of the Pteropod” amplifies a classic image of ocean acidification literature while subtly transforming it. In the four stages showing the effects of an acidic ocean upon the Pteropod (also known as a sea butterfly) the artist adds more oil to the painting medium at each stage to signify the increased carbon that has such deleterious affect on the shell. The ceramic series of coral sculpture evoke the collapsing of coral reef ecosystems (also due to ocean acidification) and not just in representing the coral as bleached but in the use of a glaze that captures carbon through the firing process.


Max Greenleaf Miller received his BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art in 1997.

This is his second solo show at James Goodman Gallery. In 2018 he was awarded a residency through the Arctic Circle Program and spent 3 weeks sailing on a barquentine schooner in the arctic ocean off of the Svalbard archipelago.