Dean Millman, Artist


The paradox of Dean Millman is that a young man of twenty-one who still has braces on his teeth is impressing art critics and collectors all over North America with his sensitive portrayals of the land and its people.

Represented in major art collections throughout the United States, Dean also has his pick of good commissions when he wants them. He recently finished a painting for Harrah Corporation of Nevada, and one of his paintings graces the cover of Nevada’s telephone directories.

He won his first art award at the age of nine and has won, hands down, every contest he has entered since—more than twenty in all.

Dean moved west from North Adams, Massachusetts, with his family in 1961. He finished school in Utah and Nevada and currently lives, when not traveling with his sketch pad, in Carson City (Nevada) Second Ward.

You can’t really appreciate Dean as a person until you meet him. You have to feel his self-conscious humility. You have to see his unlined youthful face. And you have to hear his voice of determination as he talks about what he wants to do with his art.

I guess if there is any one reason for success, Dean’s reason is determination. He started painting when he was eight. When he was twelve he spent most of a year talking his parents into letting him ride his bike across the country. He finished the long journey when he was thirteen, perhaps the youngest person ever to make the ride. He rode from Ogden, Utah, to Massachusetts and then down to New York. He rode along feeling and sketching the life of America as he went. And he has traveled since—in cars, in trains, in planes. He feels he needs to learn all the time. As he explains, “Sometimes you have to go slowly. When you are on a bike or walking, you feel, you touch the heat and the cold. It is good to get down to life and to see how people act; to feel the rain when it hits your head; to have to worry about a place to sleep. This next summer I plan to walk from Georgia to Vermont, and when I get there, I’ll know the people.”

Dean has had encouragement along the way. “You know, I had a favorite teacher in high school who was also my bishop. He said to me, ‘Listen, Dean. Now is the time for you to paint. I know you’d like to go out and play basketball or baseball and you’d like to be with the rest of your friends; but I’ll promise you that if you will do the art that you feel strongly about now, someday you’ll be able to play while your friends work.’ And you know, this has really come true. Now when I want to go somewhere I go—Alaska, New York, or down south. I’ll never have to worry about a job, I guess. My paintings are selling and I can say in them what I have to say. This is my form of communication. This is me, and if people like my art, they like me. I guess I have the best life in this world, because my fun is my work and my work is fun.”

Dean made the following comments about these paintings:

[illustrations] Dean Millman paintings courtesy of Dewey Moore Gallery

[illustration] Dean painted this portrait of himself reading a letter from Eric Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front, whose picture and books are on the desk.

[illustration] “The coldness and loneliness of Alaska have always interested me. Even the little things, like making a fire or looking for food, are serious and have a certain dignity. I wanted to portray the impact of loneliness, the solitary animal looking for food. There is nothing lighthearted about that.”

[illustrations] “I spent a great deal of my childhood in Massachusetts, and I still feel the wintery memories of when I was young. I like small towns and plan to live in one when I get married. I want to be able to take my kids for a walk every day, to teach them and have them grow up with nature. This is one great opportunity an artist has. I can stay away from this fast-moving, suicidal society. I guess my main goal in life is to really be a good Christian and do good Christian work and raise my children to be good Christians.”

[illustration] “This is Alaska to me. It’s so vast, and the white hitting across the water makes a simple picture, but it gives the impact of the land.”

[illustration] “I saw a graveyard in a little town in Vermont. ‘William Benson’ was written on one of the headstones. He was wounded at Antietam Creek and died a month later. He was just another lost person whom everyone else had forgotten. I wanted to show him with his pistol and bring him back and give him some credit for what he did.”

[illustration] “Usually in still life I use my own props, but a friend showed me these—a medal and a letter sent to the mother of a Salt Lake boy who was killed at the Punjab frontier in India almost one-hundred years ago. Here’s another guy no one has heard of who was killed in a far-off place.”

[illustration] “Nature appeals to me. Like Thoreau and this bird, I often like to escape society and get out into nature.”