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Pondering the brilliance of artist Mike Miller

There are prolific artists in this city who I would label “iconic.” 63-year-old Mike Miller is one of them. Miller is the guy at the art party with overalls on. His hair rarely sees a brush or comb. He has a quiet demeanor and a ready smile. If you chat him up, stand by, because he is absolutely brilliant—Einstein brilliant. This man surely dreams in mathematical equations and quantum mechanics.

Miller is a sculptor who uses just about anything he stores at his farm near Towanda to construct some of the most unusual works of art seen in the area. Rock, Iron, motors, gears, cable, and rope, all are used by Mike. Maybe you have seen the Dragonfly on North Broadway, or the wind-engine piece at the new baseball stadium—those are his. He has a brilliant work at Newman University that can be seen from Kellogg. Surely you are familiar with the spider on the wall in downtown’s Gallery Alley, and the rope sculpture on the adjacent wall—all Miller.

Mike brings fabulous sophistication and humor to his works—not an easy combination to pull off. He performs with a farmer’s work ethic. Bone-jarring hard work, long hours, and learning through failure. He always persists until he realizes the finished work. This artist has done so much with so little for so long, he can do anything with nothing.

And now he has another piece on view at outdoor Chain Link Gallery on Douglas, near Main. An approximately 15’ high chicken, standing next to a 4’ egg and a wooden swing set. The work is interactive and kinetic. You sit and swing and this motion drives the chicken sculpture to walk, with head and tail bobbing—like a chicken. At night it lights up with flexible neon LED’s.

Miller explains that the work ponders the question: which came first, the chicken or the egg—or even deeper—the chicken as human and how we all fit into the universe.

I will need to sit with him over a beer so he can explain it to me.

Mike Miller, The Chicken and The Egg, at The Chain Link Gallery in Wichita.

Curt Clonts is a Wichita-born artist who volunteers as KMUW's art reviewer. When Curt isn’t working in his College Hill studio he is usually spending time with his wife, kids, and grandkids. He also spends the spring and summer months kayaking and camping.