Monday, April 12, 2010


Started this portrait on Saturday - this is my father's mother, Mary Elizabeth Simmons. I am Martha Elizabeth, and until I was twenty one, we had the same last name, and the same initials. (What a MES! :^)
She died when I was five years old, so I have just a few memories of this grandmother. My father always said that I resembled her. Yup. The same face shape, the same nose! I have to keep working this - I've made her face too long and I've made her look more severe than she is - she has a very soft and gentle expression. I will find her as I push that charcoal around!

I want to thank those of you who gave me feedback for my *ghost* project! And I want to share this bit of synchronicity:

Directly after I corresponded with my cousin Jon about our collaboration and about my plan to print my portraits on sheer fabric and make them hang like ghosts, I responded to a friend's inquiry on Facebook about the upcoming Ebune Parade in Portland. She had asked me if I'd ever been in the parade, and I told her yes, that I had participated in 2005, when one of my MECA professors, Alex Kahn, was in charge. I sent her a link to Alex and his partner Sophia Micheles's website, knowing that she would love to see their work. They do pageant puppetry, and my friend does paintings of puppets. While finding that link for her, I happened to notice that Alex and Sophia had a video on Youtube, and curious, I clicked to view...

Ghosts with portrait faces!!!
Wow, I just love the floating chairs, tea cups, silverware, etc!
Pure Magic.

Alex and Sophia now travel the globe working with communities to create wondrous puppets and pageants!


Susan Beauchemin said...

I'm still thinking on the mobile idea of objects!
I have no recollection of this grandmother---it's interesting to come up with one object for a person who you don't even know, except for a story or two! I can't even think of one object I'd like to have represent me--what would you choose for yourself?

That parade looks like a fun one to be involved with!

mb said...

Just found your blog today by way of 6th Street Design School.
Love, love, love your B/W charcoal drawings. They arae wonderfully strong.
Until I married my hubby 27+ years ago, I was MES also. Mary Elizabeth Sullivan. My family calls me Marybeth so I will sign off as mb.

Martha. Did you go to school in New England?
I will pass your blog info along to my daughter who is a painter in NYC. Her website is

I am off to look at more of your wonderful work.
mb from Dallas

mb said...

PS> Have you heard about the traveling Alice Neel show that is currently at the museum in Houston. Maybe it will be Boston bound.

mb from Dallas

martha miller (it's all art, isn't it?) said...

Hey, Sue!

I think for me maybe it would be a piece of vine charcoal in the bill of a hummingbird! :^)

yes! mobiles! let's do it!

martha miller (it's all art, isn't it?) said...

Hi MB!

Glad to meet another MES! Thankyou for your kind words! Yes, I went to Maine College of Art - graduated with a BFA in printmaking in 2006 at the age of 52. People often remark that my work reminds them of Alice Neel's. I wrote about it here:

I saw a show of her work at Bates College in the 80's - fabulous! I dearly hope that her travelling show heads east!

All Best!

Dean Grey said...


Wow, you sure have a TON of family history, don't you? I don't know much about my mother or father's families beyond their mother and father.

Did you always know so much about your family tree or are you just discovering it all now? It's fascinating regardless.

This portrait is looking kind of cartoony at the moment (not a bad thing) but you did say you're still reworking it.