(b. 1956; resides: Chicago, IL and Austin, TX)
But to me, my distortions show these men as they really were, fragile and precarious, not as they wanted to be seen, powerful and important. —Sybil Miller
Made over a span of ten years, the photographs in Sybil Miller’s Statesmen: Pictures from the Fifty State Capitols reinterpret gubernatorial portraits from across the country. While the images are straight prints from a 35mm camera, it’s worth noting the extent to which atmosphere and perspective combine to distort each politician. The green cast of fluorescent light makes the Kansas governor look ill and alien, while the warm glow of tungsten captures the gentleman from North Dakota as if trapped in amber. Oblique angles and shallow depth of field warp and obscure the original renderings of each sitter, stressing a single feature of figures once widely known and now nearly anonymous. The same technique draws attention to the physical qualities, and dubious success, of an object designed to preserve and exalt.
Sybil Miller was born in Kansas City, Missouri. She holds an MA in American Studies from University of Texas at Austin (1983) and a BGS in photography/art history from University of Missouri-Columbia (1978). Her work is in the collections of Amon Carter Museum, Ft. Worth, TX; Austin History Center, Austin, TX; Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe. A 1981 Lightwork Artist-in-Residence, Miller is currently Professor of Photocommunications at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.