Rebekah Miller

January 4 to February 2, 2013

There is no firmer connection between humanity and the world than the idea of home. Paradoxically, home is something we are always leaving. Home lies in the roots of our memory. In the effort to resurrect, re-animate, and reconstitute what is lost, it becomes apparent that there is an inability to do so. This fabric house does not protect and these stitched trees cannot grow. These trees, like the ghosting of my house, are but fragile shells of what they once were. They are just skins.

In Search of the Familiar

Rebekah Miller introduces her work, simply, by stating, ‘there is no firmer connection between humanity and the world than the idea of home.’ Indeed, there is nowhere the geographic and psycho-emotional realms coalesce more purely than at the axis of home. It is both a location, a set of cartographic coordinates, and a ghostly non-place: a point missing from all maps, an unnameable gravity well most easily described by what it is not.

There is, in all things, the inability to explain that which you are embedded in or surrounded by. The colour of your irises, the shape of your face, your own identity, cannot be clearly ascertained until you look in a mirror. Memory is not enough. In the space between your eyes and the mirror’s silver surface – and even further back, behind the mirror, into the foolishly believable reflection of your own eyes – you are allotted a distance necessary to nurture an adequate perspective. It is the leaving and the stepping away that allow the details that comprise a thing to blur, blend, and finally become a whole.

‘Home’ only really becomes tangible, prone to articulation, as one moves away from it. There is a longing – the desire to be home or to go home – that can never be fulfilled enough. Returning home does not erase this ennui, despite the familiar comforts erecting soft walls around it. In that place, the idea of ‘home’ slips away and embraces all that is nostalgiac, forgotten, contented, and cloying.

It is this aspect of home that Rebekah Miller attempts to embody. In Skins, her ghost house and hollow trees float above the floor. From a distance, they have the appearance of real things, but inevitably these works are only mimicries and inadequate representations of the things you memorialize. They bear the imprint of their aspirations, as if they have been held closely by the prairies and little woodland cabin, but they evoke feelings of loss more readily than those of comfort. Miller describes the work as ‘fragile’, but the gently swaying luminescent fabric in the shape of a house is too intangible to even be fragile. You could lean against it, but the relief-printed sheets would just furl away from you. You could beat upon it, but the walls would only wrap forgivingly around your blows. It is less than an artifice or recreation; it is a dream, a ghost.

It is strange, then, that pulling away from the reflection in a mirror allows one to better observe, describe, and know their own self; but what happens here, when we pull away from the thin house and floating woods? The imperfections, the clues that give them away, vanish, yes, but are we made to believe that sight and appearance are the sole constructors of our knowledge? Is there something we feel but cannot say? Is there an understanding that escapes all words? Does the attempted recreation of a memory provide sufficient consolation – even briefly, fleetingly?

The trees, the house, are skins of the things that we miss. They are empty so we might fill them with our own longings.

– Steven Cottingham


Rebekah Miller is an artist from Buck Lake, Alberta. She attended the Alberta College of Art + Design in Calgary, graduating with a BFA in Print Media. Recently she completed her MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in California, USA. She currently lives and works in Dawson City, YT.

Steven Cottingham is the Programming Coordinator at The New Gallery since 2012. His dream is to spend a summer in Longyearben, Svalbard and never see the sun go down again.