An Interview With The Artist

Paton Miller Island To Island

Paton Miller is the curator of “East End Collected4,” an exhibit now on display through May 20 at Southampton Arts Center.

The show features more than 30 artists that Miller has garnered friendships with throughout his years residing on the East End.

Originally from Hawaii, Miller vastly benefitted as the son of an airline pilot. At age 20, he was given a book of tickets to travel the world. The world in his hands, literally, young Miller made his way west from his island home. After a year in Asia, staying in places such as Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, India, Nepal, and Iran, he lived in Greece for three months and made his way through the Mediterranean.

It was upon landing in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, on his way home to Hawaii in 1974, that a friend asked him to visit the Hamptons for the first time. While on his first trip to the East End, Miller visited then-Southampton College’s art department, where the department head asked him to return and compete for an art scholarship. Miller won, and three years later, graduated. He’s called the Hamptons home ever since.

How did you choose artists for “East End Collected4”?
It’s a very organic process. This is my fourth one, and I’ve started out with people I have known personally and professionally. Part of the criteria is to be actively exhibiting. I might show up and like the work. It’s sort of a little of this and a little of that.

In what ways have you seen the local artist community change?
I think the only change you can point to clearly is that it’s grown. With that growth, it’s become more varied and more interesting.

I’ve lived in places before where there was very little art. In Hawaii, there was not much of an art colony at all. There’s something to be said for a community of artists who all hang out together.

We talk. In those conversations ideas get flushed out. You pick up on things from artists visiting your studio and visiting theirs. Just that comradery and exchange of ideas is very important.

You feel like at some point you know everybody, but you don’t.

Where can locals always find artists gathering?
The institutions out here are where you do run into everybody, whether it be Guild Hall or Ashawagh Hall [in Springs], Parrish Art Museum [in Water Mill] or the Southampton Arts Center. When you go to shows and the galleries, you see your colleagues and your friends. It’s wonderfully organic. I like this freeform nature of the association out here.

How would you describe your art?
I’m a narrative painter. Sometimes I don’t know what the narrative is, but half the times I do. It does reflect my life. When I work in my studio, it’s a reflection of past experiences.

I do have a farm in [Guanacaste] Costa Rica, and when I’m down there and I’m painting, I’m painting the people around me. I’m not crazy about painting outside, per say, but I’m comfortable around my farm. So, I’ve painted all the neighbors, the horses, the kids, and everything. They’re used to me and I’m used to them — it’s a great kind of open studio for me. I’ve had it for 22 years.

It’s been wonderful for my kids and me.

How has the East End influenced your work?
When I first moved here, in 1974, I was 21 years old. I really didn’t know much about the contemporary art world. For me, it was an education in contemporary art. I was studying 19th Century French and Spanish artists. So, an important factor for me living here was to be influenced by all the different artists that I met — really hard working professional artists — who I admire very much.

It’s really important for artists to have an audience and this is the place that has that, and has a great interest in art. You can thrive here as an artist.

See the “East End Collected4” exhibit at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton. Miller will be talking about his experience curating “East End Collected4” on Tuesday at 7 PM at Almond’s Artist and Writer’s Night. The restaurant is located at 1 Ocean Road in Bridgehampton.

View Paton Miller’s work at