• Rick Mills

    Rick Mills
  • Biography

    I was born in NYC and raised in NY and Long Island. I currently divide my time between studios in New Jersey and the Catskills. I studied painting and art history as an undergrad and grad student at City College of New York. It was in High School in NYC that the art chairman and painter Sol Zaretsky inspired my early direction as an artist. We often exchanged studio visits until his recent passing.

    Driving a cab in NYC during the 70s and 80s I drew the quiet side of the city, culminating in paintings and many print editions co-published with Orion Editions. I became a master printer, taught at the Pratt Graphics Center and helped found and lead the Manhattan Graphics Center. Frequent trips to Maine led to a poetry and print collaboration with poet Fred Lowe. I was professor of art at LIU Post where I taught painting, drawing and directed the printmaking program for 28 years.

    After years of representing landscapes, in 1996 during an NJ Meadowlands eco boat tour by Hackensack Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan I was inspired to merge my environmental activism with my art. I began to research environmental, topographic and cultural place histories. I expanded printmaking skills into the digital realm with layered, collaged narratives with text. These were sited outdoors in damaged and recovering public places along rivers and in wetlands. I assembled digital archives: historic maps and atlases, aerial and satellite images, photos, postcards, oral histories, newspaper articles, essays on local biota, transportation history, early settlement patterns, land use deals, fisheries reports, census records, anything I could find to reveal the drama of unplanned growth’s effects on the local environment. I developed skills as a presenter before regulatory agencies as part of an aesthetic arsenal.

    From 1996 to 2010 I led and collaborated with artists, scientists, historians, and educators in some of New Jersey’s most damaged landscapes on diverse ecoart and public art projects including design of community gardens, rehabilitation of wetlands, interpretation and narration of local landscapes – their environmental and cultural history.

    I received grants from numerous arts foundations and State and Federal agencies including the NJ State Council on the Arts, Puffin Foundation, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, USEPA, NJDEP and NJ TRANSIT. Along with Riverkeeper I credit as inspiration and support a long list of eco feminist writers and artists from Lucy Lippard (“Lure of the Local”), Suzanne Lacy (Mapping the Terrain”), Aviva Rahmani (“Trigger Point Theory”), Amy Lipton (Ecovention”), Mierle Ukeles, Lynne Hull, Betsy Damon and countless other courageous pioneers.

    I was artist in residence at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy for 6 years and a visiting Fellow at the Jentel Foundation, Ucross Foundation and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts.

    Today my primary focus is on painting. Subjects include the familiar landscapes, gardens, structures and interiors that surround me. I continue to be inspired by a generation of painterly realists, seeking to extend the possibilities they explored.