Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA)
April 16, 2004
INDIAN RIVER HIGH GRAD’S SERIOUS CARTOONS GO ON DISPLAY AT GALLERY
Author: ERIC FEBER THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT
Little did Sean L. Miller know his love of Saturday morning cartoons as a youngster and the friendly cartooning competitions among peers at Ingleside Elementary School in Norfolk, would one day land him his own art show at a gallery.
For his final requirement for graduation, the Old Dominion University senior art major will display 13 of his bold works in a show titled “Heck On Earth: A Cartoonist’s Revelation.”
The show is divided into two major works: “At the Cross,” an energetic, swirling mass of six pen-and-ink renderings displayed in the shape of a cross; and “Seven Deadly Sins,” seven works done in conte crayon illustrating the seven sins of the Bible in a bold cartoon style resembling the Cosby Kids meets brutal urban images.
Miller’s show opens Sunday with a public reception at 1 p.m.
He is a 1999 graduate of Indian River High School and is scheduled to graduate from ODU next month with a degree in fine arts with a concentration in drawing and design.
His fascination for art and cartooning began when he became “addicted to cartoons on television,” he said.
And while a second-grader at Ingleside, he and his buddies used to challenge each other with competitive bouts of drawing. His friends moved on to newer pursuits, but for Miller, it became a lifelong love.
"I just stuck with it," said Miller, also a serious comic book collector with a concentration on Marvel publications. "I always knew I wanted to be an artist."
Miller has created political cartoons for various campus publications and art assignments, usually concentrating on campus affairs and politics as well as urban and national issues.
Miller, 22, said his favorite artist is the late Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali, whose style he combines with that of his favorite Marvel artists to produce his own vision of heaven, hell and the End Days.
"I love his (Dali’s) fluidity and his imagination," Miller said. "I’ve used these styles to give my interpretation of sin; of characters existing in an anarchic world. I take a perspective to life that no matter what the problem, there’s always an answer in God."
He said his feverish work to create these images, not only allowed him to meet his degree requirements for graduation but also helped him on another level.
"While I was working (on the project) I wasn’t following my faith like I should have," he said. "Since then I’ve become more grounded in my spirituality. A lot came out of my own inner struggles."
His “At the Cross” contains visceral black and white visions, full of chaotic, brutal details and precise images.
"I tend towards a lot of symbolism," said Miller, who also dabbles in photography and creating images out of photographic montages. “Some are easy to figure out, others are more personal and difficult. I want people to see that there’s something positive out there. I’d like this and its messages to relate to youth in a more modern way.”
Miller said each work took about, off and on, eight weeks to complete. He said he sketched his ideas out but during the creative process veered away from the original designs as more ideas and inspirations came to him.
After finishing his creations he, on recommendation from colleagues, contacted Wayne Potrafka with the Riverview Gallery in Portsmouth’s Olde Towne.
Other students have done shows there, Miller said.
"It’s a good gallery," he added, "and they help rising artists and students."
Although a commercial, privately-owned gallery, Potrafka said the venue strives to help the community by giving students the space to show off their works.
"We do this as a public service. We’re happy to help further art in the area as much as possible," Potrafka said. "We’ve given a number of ODU and NSU shows and, coming up, a VCU master’s show."
Miller said after contacting Potrafka, he showed him his works.
"I see a great deal of talent in his work," Potrafka said. "I feel he has a future in the art world."
Miller sees that, too.
"Eventually, I’d like to start my own design company," said Miller, who has sent scores of resumes, applications and portfolios to various design companies and commercial art departments. "I’d also like to produce a line of inspirational prints."