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Hot Stuff: John Miller at Pittsburgh Glass Center

July 28, 2010

Seeing an everyday object in gigantic proportions helps you see the absurdity of it. This is apparent in roadside statues, the giant chickens and insects and Muffler Men who line the highways. It is also apparent in John Miller’s Hot Stuff, now being exhibited at the Pittsburgh Glass Center.

Miller has taken Martini glasses, cigarettes, fast food, and car keys and made perfect, oversized renditions of them out of glass. The works have evocative titles, such as “Breakfast of Champions” for a giant beer and cigarette, or “Do Not Duplicate” for a set of car keys. Many works feature the coupling of tobacco and alcohol, while others relate to fast food. They poke fun at our consumer culture by simply being what they are, only larger and well-crafted.

A martini, a cigarette, and a pill are all units of consumption. They are quantifiable, and we often describe our day by saying “I took two aspirin,” or “I had three martinis,” or “I smoke a pack a day.” These little consumables are symbols for greater and less definable forces in our lives, like pain, pleasure, the desire for social acceptance, and addiction. Seeing these items separated from the emotions and situations with which they are usually entangled, and seeing them as sizable, exposes both their power and their silliness. It is silly to allow a unit of alcohol or tobacco represent a day or a night or a life. I’m not sure if this tendency toward metonymy is something bred by commercials, or if it is an inherent psychological principle to narrow ideas and feeling into symbols. Either way, Miller has fun creating and displaying these large objects, and his joy is easily perceivable.

Hot Stuff will be on display at the Pittsburgh Glass Center until September 26th.

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