The sculptures that comprise Dutes Miller’s Relics from the pleasure-dome are coated in a thick residue of intuition and personal mythologies lavished over one another. Preferring the dimensionality of bewitched forests filled with Radical Fairies over more austere strains of artistic conceptualism, Miller shares an instinct for magic as a creative strategy for contesting norms and celebrating alterity with such queer artistic touchstones as art-shaman AA Bronson and shapeshifter Gensis Breyer P-Orridge. His objects are the delightfully deformed offspring of Niki de Saint Phalle’s voluptuously femme goddess sculptures who dance naked and uninhibited through the streets of Germany. They are the offshoots (if you catch my meaning) of Louise Bourgeois’ Fillette, a “dick move” some would say, dubbed a “little girl;” Miller likewise spins his forms through realms material, spiritual, and psycho-sexual—accreting a panoply of carnal fantasy into brutish, buoyant idols. He has built in ecstasy a series of moderately scaled sculptures in which erotic possibilities are exaggerated, multiplied, and mutated into horned and horny creatures.
Two guardians flank the rear wall of the gallery: fluorescent, enormous butt plugs erect before the audiences that penetrate the gallery installation beyond them. In exchanging traditional painting surfaces for these twisted cherubs sculpted in papier-måché and plaster, the vibrant loads blown over Miller’s suggestive forms reframe a longer history of action painting as symbolic personal expenditure. A metallic violet gourd is stiff over a slumping plaster stand, most resembling the euphemistic “eggplant emoji” used in text messages to signal tumescent phallicism. Talismanic figures proudly present their receptive assholes, oozing with swirls of glittering red and purple. A beast with two backs slops under viscous layers of ashen grey—a somber joinder between priapic orgies and gatherings for grieving losses in LGBTQIA communities, such as last summer’s massacre at Pulse night club that reminds us that we dance and fuck in the face of danger.
In the 1487 Malleus Maleficarum, or “Hammer of Witches,” a text that served as a manual for the Inquisition’s attack on women judged to be witches, perhaps its most ludicrous accusation was that witches robbed men of their penises and kept the abducted members alive and crowded into a great bird’s nest, with special attention called to the formidable endowment of the village priest. While such an incredible, bawdy tale reads starkly out of place amidst the Malleus’ proceedings, today it might be a fairytale rendition of Dutes Miller’s abstracted bottom boys who are barbed with the dicks of their former conquests. Sometimes tri-podded on a “third leg,” sometimes adorned with bruised, pendulum testicles, Miller’s miscreant faerie changelings wear patriarchy’s castration anxieties and generously genderfluid counter-narratives across their backs. The enchantment enacted by Miller’s sculptural receptacles begins at their orifices—open, incorporative, hungry—and the pleasure they derive from taking it all inside of them, a universe pulled across a prostrate and settled into each work’s inner vessel, filling them up.
Dutes Miller’s work has been written about on artforum.com, Hyperallergic, the Huffington Post, Chicago Reader, New City, and the Chicago Tribune. Miller’s work has been included in exhibitions at several national venues including White Flag Projects in St. Louis and the Ukrainian Museum of Art in Chicago. His collaborative work with his husband Stan Shellabarger, as Miller & Shellabarger, won a 2008 Artadia Award and a 2007 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation award and has been written about in Art in America, Artforum.com, Art & Auction, Frieze, Artnet, The Art Newspaper, Flash Art, and the Chicago Tribune. Miller received a BFA from Illinois State University. He is represented by Western Exhibitions in Chicago and lives and works in Chicago.