When Imogene Miller returned, decades ago, to her Elmont home after stepping out, she met an unexpected surprise: her daughter, Natasha, who was 13 or 14 at the time, had covered the family’s basement with spray paint.
“At this time, I had no idea she had this artistic flair,” Imogene said.
On August 21, Natasha Miller displayed her paintings and sold ornaments, duffel bags, t-shirts and other items donning her artwork at an outdoor art show in Elmont.
Between 30 to 50 people stopped by at the sale to admire Miller’s artwork, and many community members bought Christmas tree ornaments, duffel bags, pillows, t-shirts and other items imprinted with Miller’s artwork.
“I think she did very well,” said Hyacinth Harrison, a longtime resident of Elmont and friend of Natasha and her family who helped organize the art show. Harrison added that unexpected rain forced the show to end earlier than planned.
“We had a very good turnout despite the bad weather,” Natasha’s mother, Imogene, said. She noted that some people came from Brooklyn and further across Long Island to see the artwork.
Miller, who now lives in Valley Stream, was impressed by the turnout by the Elmont community at the art show and said her artwork has gained exposure since the event. Following the show, she has shipped orders of her artwork to Canada and the Caribbean, Miller said.
Making the art sale a reality required Miller to display her artwork the public, something she had been unsure about doing for a long time, Harrison said. This, she added, required herself and Imogene to convince the longtime artist to hold the show.
“I saw something in Natasha for 3 years encourage her to get her art out there,” Harrison said
Harrison said she was impressed one day by the paintings inside the Miller’s home in Elmont. When Imogene told Harrison that her daughter was the artist behind these paintings, Harrison was shocked and suggested that Miller go public with her talent.
“These paintings collect dust because she piles them up in the basement… this is not right,” Harrison said. “We must show the world her talent,” she added.
Miller said that her hesitancy came from a personal place. Most artists, she said, are not eager to share their art because they feel a connection to their work. “I feel like it’s very personal,” Miller said. “It’s like a piece of me.”
Part of her reticence to share her artwork, Miller said, came from fear of judgement. Today, she carries no concerns about this: “Whoever likes it likes it,” she said.
At the first art class Miller ever took, at a New York City prep school, Miller heard Reggae music and music by women artists, two foundational elements that drive her work today.
Miller said one goal of hers is to display “the beauty of larger, robust women,” who are often overlooked by society, she noted, in her artwork. Another emphasis of her artwork is to highlight elements of the African diaspora.
After being exposed to these ideas, she said she began to feel like she could express herself through art. “I was hooked,” Miller said. After choosing to not attend more art classes, Miller said, she largely taught herself how to paint through freestyling, watching Bob Ross videos, and visiting art museums.
Miller has also found solace and relaxation through painting. “It’s my sanity and my serenity,” Miller said. “Art keeps me calm and stress-free.” Miller also suffers from lupus, and said painting eases her arthritis and allows her to relax.
Painting has also served as an avenue for Miller to express her personality and the way she sees the world.
“When I look at things, I see things differently than everyone else,” Miller said, noting that she often scans the sky looking at the details of clouds and stars. This can be seen in her realistic paintings that often focus on facial expressions and eyes and are depicted through captivating, bold colors.
“Her paintings capture the eye and the heart and the soul,” Miller’s mother said. “When she makes a piece of art, you’re going to want to take it,” Harrison said.
Harrison and Natasha’s mother, Imogene, are pushing her to hold another art sale before the winter.
Miller said she plans on holding another show once the coronavirus pandemic is over, or cases of the virus decrease further.
“I would love to have another show,” Miller said. “For people to admire the beauty of art, the art of women and a woman artist, and the art and beauty of larger woman,” she added.