We recently connected with Kimberly Miller and have shared our conversation below.
Kimberly, appreciate you joining us today. Can you tell us about a time that your work has been misunderstood? Why do you think it happened and did any interesting insights emerge from the experience?
Being a woman and an artist has created misconceptions about me as a professional artist. I am also a Navy Veteran and that, too, has created misconceptions of who I am. These misunderstanding have been largely due to social standards and expectations that are related to my gender rather than my profession. I have felt that when I fill a nurturing or caregiving role such as wife or mother, then I am fitting a mold and my skills are judged at a different level. If my children are a reflection of what kind of mother I am I think my art should be a reflection of what kind of artist I am. Both roles require a lot of attention and great skills. I feel that my art value is based largely as a woman’s work and no matter how much I put into it that society will base the value on my gender. I can best describe this bias by telling about a recent visit in a prestigious art gallery in Winter Park, Florida. I asked a gentleman who worked in the gallery if there were any women’s artwork presently exhibiting that I didn’t see…and he told me that they had a glass sculpture by a woman artist. The gallery was packed with paintings on all of the walls and I said I was surprised that there was not a single painting by any women artists and his response was that women’s art doesn’t sell well. I had many similar experiences in the Navy. When women are generalized based on social expectations or limitations, our society is deprived of half of our population voices and wisdom and it hurts our society.
Kimberly, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
FemArt Gallery, Inc. began as an activist movement as a result of my marching with women in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2017. I was inspired by the many incredible speakers that day but mostly by Michael Moore who spoke about his efforts to join his school board and how he was the youngest to do so because he found out that there were no age restrictions and he became the youngest board member and was able to have a voice in school decisions. I am not sure if I am explaining it as well as he did but what I really loved was his call to action. My philosophy of life is if you don’t like something you should not complain unless you take action to help improve or solve the problems. I remember thinking I should run for an office or join an organization that will have a long-lasting impact on society. What I soon found out was that there was a problem right in front of me as I was planning for my graduation from University of North Florida that April. I was about to graduate with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the age of 56 years old. I have been creating art since I was five but was about to achieve a lifelong dream of having my art degree. I thought my age may have been a challenge for getting into some galleries but then I read Guerilla Girls and other statistics of women artists and realized I was entering a male dominant field that has constructs based on my gender more than my age. I knew right then that I needed to take action. I recruited two other classmates to help me organize this organization and FemArt Gallery was born. Instead of beginning a women’s art gallery that would accept women artists we decided to start a nonprofit that would ask for community support. Nonprofits not only build with community support but often bring awareness of social deficiencies that can lead to a much better and stronger society. This is also what art does! A nonprofit art organization brings awareness to the many contributions of women artists and creates a future of fair and equal opportunity to have many diverse voices cultivate a better society.
Is there a mission driving your creative journey?
Yes! Our mission is to elevate women’s visual voices through exhibition opportunities, educational programs and community outreach. It is best described by Georgia O’Keeffe when she explained her intentions with painting larger than life flowers:
I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
I have been told since I was a little girl that I would have a different life than my brothers. I was taught modesty early on while my brothers were taught boldness. I was taught to be quiet when my brothers were allowed to shout and yell. I was told by my high school guidance counselor that I would never make it to college so I needed to take a typing class so that I could get a job when I graduated high school. I was told when I joined the Navy that I would never make it past bootcamp because I was too fragile. I was questioned why I wanted to join the Navy to be like a man. I was told at my first duty command by officers that I should never seek certain jobs that I was interested in because I would break my nails (I didn’t have any nails at the time…), I was told I would never find someone to marry me or ever have children because I held too high of standards. I was told I should go for a nursing degree because an art degree never pays. I was told my nonprofit would never succeed. I was told by board members that I should quit my nonprofit organization because it was too hard, and I was not making money that is needed to make a difference for women artists. I defied all odds and am standing today as a bold woman who is an honorable Navy veteran who served my country for 10 years, am a mother of two incredible individuals who are making the world a better place, the wife of a supportive and loving husband, an awesome artist who takes great pride in my work, a teacher who teaches pride and endurance along with art to students who will aspire to greatness within their own visions, an Executive Director and Founder of FemArt Gallery that is changing the career paths and enriching our community with amazing visual voices of women. I stand proud and accomplished by standards not set by society but by my own resilience and I measure myself by my defeat of boundaries set by my past and by people who thought they were talking to just another girl/woman. Only I can set such boundaries and at the age of 61 I feel boundless.
- Website: www.FemArtGallery.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/femartgallery
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberly-miller-7067aa143/