Tom Miller. Jungle Chest. 1987. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Alice and Franklin Cooley Fund. BMA 1988.3
Tom Miller. Jungle Chest. 1987. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Alice and Franklin Cooley Fund. BMA 1988.3

“I use objects as my canvas. I only record what I see and feel based on my experiences as an African American living in Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States of America. All of my influences are by no means artistic. The people around me, the community I live in, provide a great deal. Artistically, I’m influenced by the greats—Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Henri Matisse.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     —Tom Miller, 1995

BALTIMORE, MD (August 28, 2002) – Many art lovers throughout Baltimore have opened their homes to the one-of-a-kind chairs, tables, desks, and cabinets reconstructed and painted by Tom Miller (1945-2000). From September 15, 2002 to February 16, 2003,Tom Miller: Changing Spaces explores the ways Miller’s pieces have transformed the lives and living spaces of their collectors through a focus exhibition in the Cone Wing.

“Tom Miller’s furniture, paintings, and prints are objects of desire for collectors who relate to his social concerns and embrace his vivid palette,” said Jim Abbott, BMA Curator of Decorative Arts. “This exhibition celebrates his work through the voices of collectors of his art.”

The exhibition features 17 vibrantly painted works of art, sculptural furniture creations altered with found objects and whimsical additions, the majority of which have been generously loaned by local collectors. The exhibition is installed in the BMA’s Cone Wing, placing Miller’s creations in context with an inspirational source—the work of Henri Matisse.

A native of Baltimore and a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, Miller was an art teacher for Baltimore City schools for 20 years. In 1985, he entered MICA’s graduate program and began painting old furniture with dazzling colors and motifs, such as watermelons, zebras, alligators, and polka dots—redefining discarded objects with paint, fabric, and ornaments. Miller often embraced a theme with his works and used his whimsical style to address serious social issues, such as African-American stereotypes, with humor. His art has been uniquely categorized as “Afro-Deco.”

Tom Miller: Changing Spaces is curated by James Archer Abbott, BMA Curator of Decorative Arts. This exhibition is generously sponsored by Roger M. Dalsheimer, with additional support from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund.


Hands-On Activity

Painted Patterns
Sunday, September 22, 2-4 p.m.
Ages 5+

Paint patterns on wood in the spirit of Baltimore native Tom Miller, who transformed cast-off pieces of furniture into brilliant, bold “Afro-Deco” creations.

Free First Thursdays

Transformed Spaces
Thursday, October 3, 5-8 p.m.
Call 410/396-6314 for more information

Artist Joyce Scott offers a musical tribute to Tom Miller, whose decorative painted furniture is featured in a focus exhibition in the Cone Wing. Enjoy gallery talks, tours, and storytelling with the book “Can a Coal Scuttle Fly?”, illustrated by Tom Miller and written by Camay Calloway Murphy. Supported by Constellation Energy Group.

Panel Discussion

The Fine Art of Collecting: The Painted Furniture of Tom Miller
Sunday, October 27, 2 p.m.

Join local collectors for an illuminating discussion on the work of Baltimore artist Tom Miller. The discussion will be moderated by James Archer Abbott, BMA Curator for Decorative Arts. A reception follows. Hosted by the BMA’s Joshua Johnson Council.

Gallery Talks

Gallery Talk with James Archer Abbott, BMA Curator of Decorative Arts
Sunday, September 15, 1 p.m.
Thursday, September 19, 1 p.m.

Paint and Pattern: A Furniture Maker’s Perspective on Tom Miller with Baltimore cabinetmaker David Wiesand
Thursday, October 3, 1 p.m.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

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