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May 23, 2008

Artist who died at home was not a victim of foul play

Cleveland--A prominent gay artist who split his time between Los Angeles and his native Cleveland was found dead in his home on May 18.

Scott Miller, who had shows this year at both Gray’s Auctioneers in Cleveland and Edgar Varela Fine Arts in Los Angeles, was not a victim of foul play, according to a spokesperson for the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office who would not comment on the cause of death.

Over a decade ago, Miller bought a house and attached storefront on Lake Avenue, which he used as a residence, studio and gallery space. He put the letters “OBOE” on the front, reportedly enamored with the sound of the word.

The 52-year old was well known in the Cleveland art scene, a larger-than-life figure in terms of his output, physical stature and emotive personality.

“We had a wonderful show of his most recent work that ran from December 14, and it was extended beyond February 15,” said Deba Gray, owner of Gray’s Auctioneers. “I think it ran through March.”

Gray, who moved from Cleveland years ago to pursue her career and has now returned to the city, said, “I was always familiar with his work. Coming back to Cleveland and having an auction house, I wanted to have a space to promote artists.”

The original plan was to put on a retrospective of his work. He gave her unfettered access to his collection, which included pieces stretching back 43 years.

“We needed way more lead time, so we decided to put on hold the retrospective and focus on his more recent painting, these botanicals,” she said.

She described Miller’s ability to live as a full-time artist, especially for as long as he did, “a pretty rare, special thing,” noting that he began his career in the 1980s.

“Here’s a guy who did it. He lived and breathed and died as an artist. He didn’t compromise at all,” she said. “He was a huge guy, like a Viking. I guess you have to be.”

“To me, he’s a total success,” she mused. “He’s an amazing artist, someone that needs to be respected, admired and acknowledged.”

After working for one of the most prominent auction houses in the world, Sotheby’s, Gray has experienced the oeuvres of many an artist. Still, she said, looking through Miller’s collection was a new experience.

“It was such a great thing to see his evolution as an artist. It’s probably never going to see the light of day, sadly,” she noted. “It’s a massive body of work. I’ve never seen a collection like that from one artist. It’s quite a treasure that he’s left behind.”

Her assessment of Miller’s work was echoed by gallery owner, appraiser and conservation specialist Bill Tregoning, whose own gallery is around the corner from that iconic OBOE building.

“Scott Miller was an undeniably gifted artist, with a certainty of his own style and a stand-alone authenticity in applying it,” he said. “His paintings flowed out of him. He was remarkably facile as a painter, and created a variety of subjects, figures, flowering botany, surrealist dream images.”

“His untimely death is all the more unfortunate since he was enjoying another round of commercial success with his Los Angeles gallery’s latest show of his recent works, a show that just closed last week,” Tregoning continued. “He will be remembered, and no doubt missed.”

His death also ends Miller’s part in the vanguard of queer artists and gallery owners who are breathing new life into downtrodden neighborhoods on the west side of Cleveland. Tregoning’s gallery is hailed as a shining example of the redevelopment of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, and Gray’s million-dollar investment is anchoring an area just to the west that is being kept from decay through the effort of business owners like herself and concerned residents.

While Miller’s parents, brother and sister all live in Lakewood, no public memorial is planned.


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