An interview with artist Freyda Miller



Here Comes the Bride and Other Nightmares

Artist Freyda Miller


June 5th – July 15, 2015

SUNDAY, JULY 12, 3 PM, Meet the Artist
“Props, Metaphors, and Pieces of Me” with FREYDA MILLER

Author, Artist, Freyda Miller, Creator of “Here Comes the Bride and Other Nightmares,” discusses her 20 years experience as a production coordinator/stylist in Hollywood for national print ads and commercials (propping, casting, wardrobe, set decorating, location scouting) and her lifetime personal work as a fine artist. Freyda’s “Here Comes the Bride” exhibit “addresses women’s issues through photography, painting, assemblage, installation and fine art book. Rising above her comfort zone, trusting her intuition and not worrying about the reactions of others have been major components in her passion for art making.

Women’s Museum of California
2730 Historic Decatur Road, Barracks 16, Suite 103
San Diego, CA 92106
Phone: (619) 233-7963


An interview with Freyda Miller by Kristine Schomaker


Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school?
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and grew up in Los Angeles. I married my high school sweetheart and put him through law school. We had 2 children and when they turned 11 and 12 years old I returned to school with a major in art. I was accepted at UCLA and graduated in my late 30’s. It was truly a gift!


Who/What has impacted your art the most and how does that come through?
Robert Heinecken, then head of the UCLA Photography Department impacted my art the most. His photography was conceptual, rarely using a camera. He combined found images in a provocative way always commenting on social issues, advertising that was misleading and the use of eroticism. His erotic images gave me permission to explore and express another side of myself. At the same time, JoAnn Callis was his Teachers Asst. (TA) and her work impressed me greatly. Her images were staged and beautiful and there was always something disturbing about them. That duality spoke to me.


Eva Hesse was another artist that I was in awe of. The materials she used were amorphous and fluid and spoke to me on a visceral level. I have incorporated the sense of that into some of my art. Frida Kaho’s work drew me in as she explored her own pain and tragedies. Her paintings were gut wrenching and drew me in on a deep level. Her bleeding body spoke volumes of a woman’s inner self.


Can you tell us a little bit about your history in the entertainment industry and how that influenced your photography?
I had just graduated from UCLA and was exhibiting my photographs in a photography gallery. I met a commercial photographer exhibiting in the same show. He asked me to come to work for him and be his stylist. I said,
“What’s a stylist?…” and the rest was history. I worked full time for him for 4 years and learned the techniques of casting, wardrobe, propping, location scouting and set decorating.


At the end of 4 years I decided to leave his studio and become a freelance stylist/production coordinator. I built up a clientele by contacting Los Angeles commercial photographers who shot national print ads and production companies that shot commercials. I was referred to photographers in the Midwest and New York and realized they had a great need for the treasure-trove of props and wardrobe in the Hollywood area. Also, I was able to supply them with out-of-season foods, wardrobe, ie bikinis in the winter and locations with beautiful weather and beach coastlines. This was how Prop Connection West was born. I would set up their locations, models, props, etc. before they came out to the West coast and then work with them during the run of the shoot including the post production. The casting calls were held at studios and some at my own home where I would have as many as 50 model/actors in one day. Clients included Polaroid, Mattel, Playboy, American Airlines, Altoids, Century 21, Bijan, ABC Television and more.


The work was exhausting and often not glamorous but certainly had its fun. This was particularly so when we were working with high profile celebrities as models. The days were twelve hours plus overtime with great pay. Besides hearing my name called over and over on the set as I did full production I always had with me an iron and ironing board and a full prop kit in case of an emergency. Twice I fell off a ladder in a wardrobe house. Once I fell into a basket filled with clothes and another time I fell onto a cement floor and had to have knee surgery but I did finish the day working. I was great at multi-tasking. I learned quickly not to take “no” for an answer when I needed a specific location or exotic prop. Somehow, I always seemed to get what I went after. This career lasted 20 years.


I still have dreams that I haven’t returned wardrobe from years ago and have forgotten to bill my clients. It’s like a college dream where you can’t find your class and you never have enough units to graduate.


What attracts you to the subjects you explore?
It varies, of course. The way light hits a subject is major. Often it is something I see as sensuous or gives me a feeling of unease. The work is intuitive and comes from an inner place. The treasures I find in my hunt for props and wardrobe can be the beginning of a new piece or a whole series. The location can inspire me in my choice of mood and direction. And then there is the personal ie the roles women play in society, unreal expectations, misconceptions, fairytale beliefs, motherhood and the impact social standards continue to have on women. Researching and using classical quotes as props and metaphors becomes part of the piece. Things are not always as they seem is a strain that runs through my work.



Do you remember the first time you realized you had a gift for photography?
My first photo class at UCLA. I didn’t realize I had a gift but became passionate about photography. My subjects and the look of my photos had a unique quality and that was encouraged in my work. I could freely express myself and that was huge! When starting UCLA my main interest was in painting but it quickly changed to photography.


How do you start a project? How do you plan it, where do you start from? Where do you find your inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from dream imagery, distant memories, gut reactions, unspoken fears and amorphous thoughts. Some times I just start working with the materials I have until I am led to something that draws me in. Then I am hooked. My treasure hunts lead me to unexpected inspirations that could be the beginning of a new project.. One piece will just naturally lead to another and without planning a series is begun. It grows and takes on a life of its own. Objects used as metaphors generally create the dualities seen in my work.


What are your biggest challenges as an artist?
Organizing! I am all over the place in my studio and in my head. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed.
Finding appropriate venues for my work.
Questioning myself. Why do I do the work? Hoping it has a redeeming quality and expresses significant meaning.



What motivates you as an artist?
Seeing the completion of a project in my mind ie my book “Here Comes The Bride and Other Nightmares” and the exhibition of the same title at the Women’s Museum of California. I know if I do it piece-by-piece it will eventually come together. That keeps my motivation up and saves me from feeling overwhelmed. My biggest motivation is the knowledge that I feel my best when creating. It energizes me and is my passion, my work and my fun!


What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I have started mixing my photography with painting and assemblage.
Some recycling. I am planning to deal with something that is near and dear to me but its life hasn’t poked out yet.


What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
To trust my intuition, rise above my comfort zone and not worry about the reactions of others to my art. I gave this advice to myself.


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