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Mindy Yan Miller

  • born in 1959 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
  • mother born in Calgary, Alberta; father born in Ukraine; maternal grandparents from Poland
  • B.F.A. (1982), and M.F.A. (1990), Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia

expanded images click on thumbnails at left to view larger images

Textile art initiated Mindy Miller into the labour intensive and repetitive processes which continue to shape her installations. These time-consuming tasks have ritualistic overtones and form part of politicized artistic processes, demonstrating Miller’s alignment with the realm of women's domestic work. In I Fell Asleep (1989-1992) Miller collected used clothing, washed, folded, and piled these clothes and then arranged them in a row of low rectangular piles, resembling beds, along the wall of a condemned industrial building in Halifax. Miller's physical engagement with the clothing became a way of getting to know the wearers, sensing their former bodily presence and marking the garments with her own body imprints. Miller's intense contact with the clothing is an act of retrieval, in which the artist reclaims and reconstructs their stories, memories, and experiences. The absent body becomes a powerful presence which resonates throughout, one with which Miller communes and which fuels her creative process. She has connected the clothes to a concern with the Holocaust which stemmed from her father’s teachings: "I was told by my father that it was a moral imperative that I stay Jewish, that I was not to assimilate because six millions Jews had been murdered and countless generations had been persecuted simply because they were born Jewish. By the age of four I recognized myself as living on top of a pile of corpses. I was tied to history through death" (1991). The endless piles of clothes resembled to her the clothes of Jews that had been piled and sorted through after mass killings during World War II. "The materials I use are dirty with history: discarded used clothing and more recently human hair, carry the residue of people. The handling of this residue wears on me. I engage with the materials literally, through folding, hanging, piling and burning in an attempt to give the work the life of 'having once been'" (1993). During the time Miller was working on I Fell Asleep, she completed other installations with a similar theme. Mount Sorrow (1989) is an installation using tin cans that read "Mount" and "Sorrow" installed in bays that are lined with piles of clothing. In O Jerusalem (Why Does She Do This) (1989-1990), Miller torched polyester garments which were then placed on the floor, and rubbed the charcoal from their burning into the walls, leaving charcoal residue on the floor as well. She began using human hair in Absence Escapes Us (1992) using thousands of straight pins hammered into a wall, each pin hung with one strand of human hair. In Papa (1995) Miller has videotaped herself holding a childhood photograph of herself and her father, which she then proceeds to eat. In the background, one can hear Miller's voice humming a Yiddish lullaby which was sung to her as a child by her father. An exploration of her relationship with her father, Papa examines his profound influence on the construction of her Jewish identity. Also in 1995 Miller created Every Word, Their Name, using her pin and hair technique to spell out ghostly names on gallery walls. "The work in this exhibit began with the name of a child that never was. Pulled from darkness before it was fully formed there was not time for name and child to give meaning and form to one another . . . . This name pierces the gallery wall. It is accompanied by a chorus of others drawn from relatives remembered and imagined" (1993). Her 1997 exhibition, Chorus, continued this exploration of her personal history and the history of Judaism, consisting of three installations: the Kaddish mourning prayer of 99 crystal Hebrew letters arranged on a flat ebony tombstone (a Kaddish for her mother-in-law and for Holocaust victims), a solitary pew on a rectangular platform, and the Papa video from 1995. Miller is currently a fine arts instructor at Concordia University in Montréal.



1997 Chorus
Koffler Gallery, Toronto, Ontario


1996 Leningrad
Optica Gallery, Montréal, Québec


1995 Papa
B312, Montréal, Québec


1994 I Killed Jesus
W139, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


1993 Untitled
Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan

Every Word, Their Name
YYZ Artists' Outlet, Toronto, Ontario


1990 I Fell Asleep
Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia


1989 Waste Not, Want Not
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia


1988 Way Out of Chaos
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia



1998 La Face
Dazibao, Montréal, Québec

Musée régional de Rimouski, Rimouski, Québec


1997 Ritual Coping
Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan

Les présents relatifs
Centre d'art contemporain Rueil-Malmaison, Rueil-Malmaison, France; Quartier Éphémère, Montréal, Québec

Dancing with the Leviathan
Toronto, Ontario

Scratching the Surface
Art in General, New York, New York


1996 Resident Memory
Na Palmovce Synagogue, Prague, Czech Republic

Hallwalls, Buffalo New York; Spaces, Cleveland, Ohio

From Memory to Transformation (Jewish Women's Voices Conference)
Toronto, Ontario


1995 Twentieth Anniversary Invitational Exhibition
The Museum for Textiles, Toronto, Ontario

Définition, situation, expiration
Centre d'art contemporain de Basse-Normandie, Hérouville, Sainte-Clair, France


1994 Justice in the Flesh
Articule, Montréal, Québec; Galerie Burning, Montréal, Québec

Monuments in the Present Tense
Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario

Textiles, That is to Say
Museum for Textiles, Toronto, Ontario; OR Society, Vancouver, British Columbia

In the Seam
Art Access Now, Toronto Eaton Centre, Toronto, Ontario; Cours Mont-Royal, Montréal, Québec


1993 Pied-à-terre
Articule off site project, Montréal, Québec


1992 Vestiges
Eye Level Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia


1991 The Embodied Viewer
Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta


1990 Depoteque
Montréal, Québec

Last Chance
Saw Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario

For the Women
Morgentaler Clinic, Halifax, Nova Scotia


1986 Centennial Celebration
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia


1986-84 Fibre Art Fusion
Oakville Galleries, Oakville, Ontario (travelling)



Angus, Jennifer. "Textiles, That is to Say." Agenda (Spring 1994): n.p.

Armstrong, John, and Sarah Quinton. Textiles, That is to Say: Sheila Ayearst, Laura Baird, Bob Boyer, Naoko Furue, Louise Noguchi, Ted Rettig, Robert Windrum and Mindy Yan Miller. Toronto, Ontario: The Museum for Textiles, 1994.

Campbell, Nancy. "Textiles, That is to Say." Ontario Craft (Summer 1994): 19-20.

Cier, Bernard, Olivier Zahm, and Joël Hubaut, eds. Définition, situation, expiration: Lionel Fourneaux, Wendy Jacob, Hervé Leforestier, Mindy Yan Miller. Hérouville, Saint-Clair, France: Centre d'art contemporain de Basse-Normandie, 1995.

Couëlle, Jennifer. "Les présents relatifs." Parachute 90 (April/May/June 1998): 40-42.

Dion, François, and Didier Boone. Les présents relatifs: Josée Bernard, Carol Bouchard, Philippe Laleu, Frédérique Decombe, Mindy Yan Miller et Christine Monceau. Rueil-Malmaison, France: Centre d'art contemporain de Rueil-Malmaison et Montréal, Québec: Quartier éphémère, 1998.

Farrell, Carolyn Bell. Chorus. Toronto, Ontario: The Koffler Gallery, 1997.

Fortin, Sylvie. Bereft. Buffalo, New York: Hallwalls, 1996.

Furue, Naoko. "The situation of textile art in Canada." Senshoku to Seikatso (Fall 1990): n.p.

Gogarty, Amy. "The Embodied Viewer." Parachute 63 (July/August/September 1991): 43-45.

Heath, Terrence. "Craft recoiling." Border Crossings 13, no.3 (August 1994): 70-72.

Horne, Stephen, and Baco Ohama. Justice in the Flesh: Lani Maestro, Mindy Yan Miller, Baco Ohama. Montréal, Québec: Articule and Galerie Burning, 1994.

Hughes, Gordon. "In graven images." New Art Examiner (April 1997): 26-29.

Jordan, Betty Ann. "Textiles, That is to Say." Canadian Art (Summer 1994): n.p.

Keene, Susan Warner. "Textiles, That is to Say." Surface Design Journal 19, no. 1 (Fall 1994): n.p.

Lemecha, Vera. Ritual Coping: Bev Pike, Joanne Bristol and Mindy Yan Miller. Regina Saskatchewan: Dunlop Art Gallery, 1998.

---, Kati Campbell, and Wanda Ellerbeck, eds. The Embodied Viewer. Calgary, Alberta: Glenbow Museum, 1991.

Lewis, Allison. "Healing hands." Fuse Magazine 13, no.6 (Summer 1990): 43-44.

Macpherson, Anne. "Textiles, That is to Say." Fiberarts (September/October 1994): n.p.

Marks, Laura U. "In the Seam." Fuse Magazine 17, no.3 (Summer 1994): 42-43.

Meilleur, Martine, Devora Neumark, and Lucie Gagnon, eds. Immixtion: Sites of Engagement. Montréal, Québec: Dare-dare, 1997.

Metcalfe, Robin. "Way out of chaos." ArtsAtlantic 9, no.1 (Winter 1989): 20.

Miller, Mindy Yan. Every word their name. Toronto, Ontario: YYZ Gallery, 1993.

---. "I Fell Asleep." Harbour Magazine 1, no.3 (1991): 9-13.

Osborne, Catherine. "Art of recall." Fuse 19, no.3 (1996): 43-45.

---. "Home is where the heart is." World Art no.4 (1995): n.p.

Podedworny, Carol. "Bereft." C Magazine (Fall 1996): 46.

Renaud, Jean-François. Monuments in the Present Tense. Ottawa, Ontario: Ottawa Art Gallery, 1994.

Siddall, Catherine D. Fibre Art Fusion. Oakville, Ontario: Oakville Galleries, 1984.

Stewart, Penelope. "In the Seam/en couture: Interview with members of the 'Name 10 parts of the body' collective and their current exhibition." Matriart: A Canadian Feminist Art Journal 4, no. 4 (1994): 18-23.

Tinkl, Judith. "Textiles, That is to Say." Surfacing Textile Dyers & Printers 16, no. 1 (1994): n.p.

Ward, Andrea. "Aspects of the political, aspects of the erotic." Harbour Magazine 1, no.1 (Fall 1990): n.p.


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