College of Visual and Performing Arts Stories

CVPA Spotlight Series: Lavely Miller ('00)

Lavely Miller Slideshow

By Jen Kulju ('04M)

Lavely Miller learned how to paint from her grandmother when she was a little girl growing up in Amherst County, Virginia. Miller decided to pursue her art through an education at JMU, where she graduated summa cum laude with a B.F.A. in Studio Art concentrating in painting and drawing in 2000. “I became the person I am at JMU,” shares Miller. “I learned that I was a person who had value.” Miller says she was also not adversely affected by being a woman who painted people in a realistic style in the visual arts field—a field she transitioned to full-time in 2016 after advancing her studies and establishing a career as a mental health professional. Miller graduated from the University of Virginia with master’s- and doctoral-level degrees in clinical mental health in 2005 before completing a residency in the area of serious mental illness. She went on to work for 10 years as a clinical/medical director of an outpatient services program where she led a team of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, therapists and case managers who served individuals with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Miller calls the job “the most difficult and humbling” she has ever had.

While Miller says she has always painted people using acrylics, her portraits and figures in recent years have “focused primarily on the visual narration of the effects of trauma.” Miller paints with her fingers and has lately been “experimenting with the use of classical Flemish glazing techniques,” applying multiple—sometimes upwards of 100—layers of translucent glazing colors at a time. She has also been able to achieve a “wrinkling effect” to her work by painting on top of paper adhered to canvas. In 2020, Miller was named one of 10 finalists for The Bennett Prize, the largest art award offered to women figurative realist painters; the winner of $50K and a solo exhibition will be announced in May 2021. According to The Bennett Prize website, a figurative realist painter is “one who paints in a style in which the realistically depicted human figure is central to and a principal focus of the work.” Miller says that the recognition has been a timely reminder that her life has contained moments of great fortune. Miller now lives and works in Baltimore, and has continued to show her art in solo and group exhibitions throughout the pandemic. Her work can be found in public and private collections in the United States and abroad. Lavely's website/work

Photo courtesy of Lavely Miller

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Published: Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 6, 2021

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