Marlene Miller’s most recent show, Blood and Iron is a dramatic exploration in power dynamics. When you walk in the cooler you are dropped into the court of the king, surrounded by soldiers, jesters, holy men, and bastards. The soldiers are of mixed emotions. The clay of their eyes cast down, pushed boldly forward, or locked in confusion.
I’m amazed at how, still as they are, they control they exhibit over the space. The blocked tile is a typically a difficult backdrop to display against, but Miller has no such issue. Between the figures there exists a hierarchy of control. The king sits at the top of that ladder, defined not only by his crown, but by the level of detail with which he was rendered. Some of the characters appear cobbled, pocked, and split. The clay itself is so much of the form, and that isn’t as much the case with the king. He maintains characteristics of the material, but is uncannily human in form. His stare is one of the coldest in the room; resolute, stoic, and repulsive.
Within the scope of Miller’s work she’s able to show many facets of the personality spectrum. In this show she’s pushed a few emotions as far as she could. Guilt, shame, disgust, contempt, indifference. Art about the waging of war is often from the perspective of the bystanders and victims. Miller has shown here all of the complications that come from parsing those facts, and makes us stand witness to the other half of the results. These men have done terrible things. We know it, and they know we know it.