R.A. Miller (1912–2006) Self-Taught/Folk Art
Ruben Aaron Miller, born in Rabbittown, GA, was the youngest of eight children. Six months before he was born, his father was shot and killed over a land dispute for the control of a public road. For years after, the fatherless family "got by on farming cotton, hunting and fishing." R.A. dropped out of school at the age of 12 and went to work in a cotton mill. He also chopped wood for 50 cents a load. Later in life he served as an ordained minister for the Free Will Baptist Church. Miller retired at the age of 65, after his vision began to deteriorate due to glaucoma, and started making the whirligigs that he made as a boy to pass the time.
As a self-taught folk artist, he best known for his whirligigs, metal cutouts and drawings. He placed hundreds of his completed works on his property, as well as selling them on the roadside. One of Miller's neighbors recollected, “When he first started, we all laughed at him and said 'Who wants that junk?' When he started making money, we all wanted to help.”
His animal images range from bluebirds, chickens, pigs, and snakes. From watching National Geographic programs on TV he was inspired to create dinosaur images. And his human figures include red devils, angels, and ‘Blow Oskar’ which is based on his cousin who would wildly blow his horn whenever he would drive by Miller’s property.
In addition to the recognition he received from appearing in music videos of R.E.M. in the 1980s, Miller's artwork appeared on the December 2001 cover of TV Guide. Miller began receiving visitors from overseas. His artwork, which he had sold for $5–$50 in the early years, by 2006 commanded gallery prices as high as $700–$800. Exhibitions soon followed. In 2006 Brenau University's Simmons Visual Arts Center featured his works in an exhibit titled "R.A. Miller: A Tribute." The Georgia Museum of Art organized a retrospective of Miller's work in 2009. The exhibit, titled "Lord Love You: Works by R.A. Miller from the Mullis Collection" ran August 15 through October 24, 2009. On July 23, 2012 an exhibit and "birthday party" was held at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center, in Gainesville, Georgia to recognize the works of R.A. Miller, and to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late artist.
Further exhibitions, the inclusion of his work in museums' permanent collections, and articles in such international publications as Raw Vision have contributed to Miller's status as an elder statesman among Georgia's self-taught artists.