From photorealist cityscapes of San Fernando Valley liquor stores, to portraits of ordinary Angelinos waiting for the bus or Hollywood tourists crowding crosswalks, to colorful still lifes, to landscapes from California to Greece, to a truly unique Zombie series, Miltenberger’s artistic eye finds possibilities for subjects in a variety of places.
Miltenberger began his life as an artist as a child, drawing to entertain himself and his friends. In his teens, he progressed to copying the works of masters like Picasso and Rembrandt. He moved to New York City in his early twenties where he was formally trained at the Art Students League of New York in the fundamentals of anatomy, life drawing and perspective by teachers such as Gustav Rehberger and Robert Beverly Hale. He is a life member of the League.
Building on that background, Miltenberger has spent the last 35 years of his life refining his skills and exploring the themes that compel him in forms such as oil painting, silverpoint, pencil, pastel, ink and charcoal.
In his own words:
“I design my paintings to challenge the viewers’ sense of the ordinary. I want my work to spark questions about their assumptions and think about the society we live in. I strike a balance between abstraction and realism that imitates the inconsistency of memory, the transience of perception and the movement of bodies through space. Putting subjects at an unusual angle, formalizing the confluence of different points of view, putting the scene into a box or onto a flat plane at a angle to the picture plane or fragmenting a scene are techniques to draw the viewers into the painting.
Simultaneously, the texture of the paint, juxtaposing white and colored spaces and combining intense with subtle colors focus the viewers’ attention on the painting’s surface. The tensions between the subject and its abstraction, the scene and the surface of the canvas and the deliberate creation of a sense of motion-of time passing-cause the viewers to re-conceive the subjects of the paintings.”
For example, Miltenberger transforms the simple act of two people approaching each other on a staircase into a breath-taking spectacle of a high wire act by including not just one perspective but shards of a multitude. The image is an opportunity to consider the dynamics of seemingly mundane events, to reflect on what we may take for granted and what we may miss in the course of our daily lives. Perhaps, hopefully, we may gain a new understanding or insight from such beautifully disorienting scenes.
Gregory Areshian, Ph.D., a research associate at UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archeology, says this of Miltenberger’s art:
“Nowadays when the majority of painters attempt to either express their internal feelings and mental states, or to create dream worlds through their art, Charles Miltenberger brings us back to such a sorely missed direction as an individualized and, at the same time, generalized, interpretation of our external contemporary world.”
Miltenberger is loosed from the restrictions of depicting actual subjects in the land of Zomblandia.
Miltenberger describes Zomblandia and the Zombie series of paintings this way:
“I have lived in the Los Angeles area my entire life and have a keen sense of the many cultures that make up this area. I choose subjects who represent some of the many faces of this city. While I often take great care to capture “ordinary” citizens realistically, I have also developed a society, Zomblandia, that allows me to create caricatures of actual people or events. Each of these approaches allows me a unique opportunity for social commentary and satire.”
In Zomblandia Miltenberger skewers subjects such as consumer culture, the government, politics, celebrity, work environments, cocktail parties, social interactions, isolation, crisis and even addresses the intriguing topic of Zombie Metaphysics.
Technically masterful and creatively gifted, Miltenberger captures our world as it is but also offers us a chance to give it a second, deeper look. He gives pointed critiques of modern American life, accurately portrays its complexities, and raises questions about the information we process on a daily basis and how we process it.
Carol Togneri, chief curator of a Pasadena museum, adds this:
“I have long been and admirer of Mr. Miltenberger’s work: his paintings and drawings embody… technical acumen, wit, political acuity, and humanity… His draughtsmanship is impeccable, his approach is thoughtful, and his artistic skills belie his humble and self-effacing personality.”
The pieces that make up the whole of Charles Miltenberger’s artistic output are respectfully on display for your consideration here at this website. Your interest and comments are welcomed and appreciated.