‘I’m pushing the barrier of what art is’
When I met with AJ Miller ’23 for our conversation about his senior spotlight, the art major and economics minor had donned the traditional post-initiation Rhyne outfit befitting a senior Sphinx Club member. Not his traditional look, but very few things about Miller are traditional.
To start, Miller is a native of Carmel, IN—but did not grow up in the suburbs. His family bought and lived on their family farm long before the affluent addition of Indianapolis became a flourishing metropolis.
“My parents bought the farm before Carmel became what it is today. Carmel was built around us,” said Miller.
After graduating from St. Theodore Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, IN, Miller decided on Wabash because of its nontraditional traditions. Something about Wabash’s uniqueness and its out-of-the-ordinary campus traditions persuaded Miller that Crawfordsville was the place for him.
His time since has been just as unorthodox as he hoped. Coming in as a freshman, Miller thought he would embark on the pre-med track, but after his first-ever art class, he decided to switch his major completely to something he was truly passionate about: art.
“I didn’t take a single art class in high school,” said Miller. “I just doodled. And then I came to Wabash, I took art classes my freshman year, and absolutely fell in love with the craft.”
Armed with his new passion, Miller forged forward in his Wabash journey, earning his pot and stripes as a Sphinx Club member and playing lacrosse along the way. But there was always a sense of unease surrounding his own art. He wasn’t satisfied with his level of creativity.
“I got into this habit of constantly creating,” said Miller, “but I felt like I had a longing for something more: to be uncomfortable. I felt like I was being too comfortable in my own space, and then I found performance art.”
One of Miller’s performance art pieces this semester was the talk of Wabash for a month. He sat outside on the Mall, in plain view, meditating and stacking bricks. No one could understand the point, but Miller did.
“I just do what I want and then I see if it’s called art,” said Miller. “I’m pushing this barrier of what art is. That’s my objective. I feel like there’s so many lines that haven’t been crossed.”
Miller has certainly been pushing. And people in the art space have begun to take notice. On March 31, 2023, Miller opened his first solo show ‘Persona’ at the Kuaba Art Gallery in his hometown of Carmel.
“[The show] was all paintings and it was super unique, because solo shows for someone my age are super rare. I had an incredible opportunity with this.
Along with the Wabash Senior ART Exhibition debuting on April 22, when Miller and his two fellow senior art majors were featured, Miller has his performance art on full display for those at the opening.
While all this exposure is certainly beneficial for a young artist, Miller has his sights set on loftier goals.
“After I graduate, I don’t want to do anything but create [for] my entire life,” said Miller. “It’s the biggest passion I have. I want to discover myself more in the next three months, so this summer I’m going to just create.”
Once his summer of self-discovery ends, though, Miller has the opportunity for an apprenticeship in Africa, with an artist in Zimbabwe. And Miller’s plans don’t end there. He plans to return to the U.S. for graduate school, hoping to study for his Master’s in Fine Arts to continue his development as an artist.
“The thing about [art] is that it’s a discovery about myself,” said Miller. “Each work I produce projects a new reflection of who I am. My process is kind of weird.”
But this weirdness is no stranger to the likes of Wabash College. Miller’s approach may be unorthodox, but his methods fit in just fine here in Crawfordsville.
If you would like to visit Miller’s work, the Senior Exhibition closes on May 13 and the Kuaba Gallery will be hosting Miller’s show throughout the summer.