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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© Michael Miller
#1 Super Cry Baby
Acrylic on canvas

87 1/8 x 77 1/4 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Bettie Cartwright and Colin Kennedy, Martin B. McNamara, John Wilcox, Scott D. Guffey, and George Morton and Karol Howard

Arts of North America

Always alive to the play of text and image, Michael Miller borrows his imagery from clip-art sources on the Internet; he also embraces logos, advertising slogans, and tabloid headlines. He then renders this material freehand. Using devices borrowed from graphic design, Miller gives his compositions an additional commercial gloss and punch. #1 Super Cry Baby is a masterly display of these strategies and techniques. 

Painted over an earlier canvas titled Go, from 2001, #1 Super Cry Baby is one of Miller’s most personal paintings. Surviving from the first stage of the composition are the stripes on the left margin, as well as the floral pattern of the original canvas. The painting is transformed, however, by new layers of text and images, as well as by the addition of a higher-keyed palette. The smiling face (based on a suntan-lotion logo) at upper left, the words of the title, the long-stemmed mushrooms (noxiously hued and cloyingly cute), the subscript “idol,” and the hauntingly silhouetted mangrove tree that casts an ominous presence over the patriotic red-white-and-blue ground, come together in a manic celebration of received ideas.