They are united in love for each other and love for art. Kevin Miller and Robert Allen live in the midst of nature in Brogue, Pennsylvania, building, painting, designing, working on sculptures, listening to the songs of birds and the calls of animals at night from the home they are designing with creativity and without pre-established notions concerning space, form or materials. Jaquematepress visited them recently at their Sawmill Barn Art Gallery and Studio.
--Would you like to chat a bit about your marriage and creative activity?
--When were you married?
--Kevin: Last June 14 we were married legally. If you had ever told us a couple of years ago that we could go to the courthouse here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and get a marriage license and be married legally by an ordained minister of the Church of the Brethren, I would have told you that you were completely out of your mind. I thought that Pennsylvania would be the last state in the country to legalize same sex marriage. I just never expected this development in my life. So this has been an enormously optimistic step. It also gives me a great deal of hope for the work I do for climate change. Sometimes we are tempted to think that there is no hope and that we are all headed for mass extinction. And then suddenly mass consciousness appears around the subject of marital equality. Now looking at the movement for climate change I have this strong feeling in my bones that something important is about to happen, that we are approaching a radical, sudden, catalytic change. Today (June 18th) Pope Francis issued an encyclical on climate change and world poverty and I could not get through more than a few sentences without weeping. It is absolutely brilliant!
--How did the two of you meet?
Robert: I used to go to country-western dances. But the place didn’t open until eight O’clock so I went to “The Raven,” a gay resort, to wait for the dance to begin and it was there that I met Keven. That was in New Hope, near the river between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
--Kevin: I had been in a very bad relationship and had packed all my bags to stay on the road for a month at a time. But there I was at “The Raven” and I saw Robert walking on the veranda and was immediately smitten. I liked the way he looked in his tight jeans and cowboy boots and so that was the beginning. That was 20 years ago. We have lived together for 18 and a half years.
--So what’s the chemistry that keeps you together?
--Kevin: We have a lot of the same interests. I think that has a lot to do with it.
--Robert: We have a combination that would scare 90% of the gay people in the world. We aren’t clean fanatics. I don’t go around the house and pick up everything so that all is spot free. We tend to live in disarray and in projects. I could take a room apart and reconstruct it while we are living in it. We both see things the same way. We see what the potential is, not what it originally is.
--Kevin: I agree with Robert. I think one of the driving engines of our relationship is that we are both creative project people. We love to make things. Whether it is art, a house or a garden or bringing people to these woods to see our work. I don’t think we are ever happier than when we are building. We have overlapping but not competing interests. I like to design, to design the building, let’s say. Robert’s area of expertise is to actually construct the building, or whatever the project it is. We talk about it in advance and tend to have the same vision of it. The other day we were talking about this sculpture and out of the blue we both told each other that we had had the same dream a few nights earlier about a stained glass chapel, although we didn’t tell it to each other until a few days later. Robert is the construction part. I admire him for that. I do the design but we both listen and pay attention to what the other thinks. We appear to be arguing all the time but what we really are doing is not arguing but engaging in creative conversation about how to solve problems.
--Robert: I can see a project from beginning to end. Kevin sees the final product. I know how to get there.
–Kevin: The fact is that this man has a pure heart. I value that pure as fresh snow heart more than anything else in the world. When I met him I had given up on ever finding anyone who could offer true love. I had come to think that that it wasn’t possible. That’s why we had a year and a half courtship. But one day he called me. I was on the west coast and he was on the east coast. He told me his mother was dying.
--Robert: She had gone into a coma. I had just come back from New York and Kevin called and all he said was to ask what the closest airport was. I told him it was Syracuse airport and he packed up and flew all the way from California to my Mom’s funeral.
--Do both of your feel that there is a continuity between your love relationship and your creative activity?
--Robert: We both continually evolve but we are doing different things. We are growing but in the same direction. I went from woodwork to painting and now I’m switching from painting to sculpture. Kevin started with painting, then evolved to sculpture. Our work continues to inspire each other. We have always had a connection between the two of us.
--Kevin: I was listening to a spiritual teacher on the internet the other day and he said something which really struck me, he said: “look at your partner every day, every hour and ask yourself who are you now, who are you now.” As Robert says, we are all evolving constantly. One of the things that makes life with this man so exciting is that he never fails to surprise me. He said he would never paint no matter what but seven years ago I was painting something for someone and I had a bunch of canvases and brushes lying around and he was bored and picked up a canvass and a brush and said: “How do you do this?” I said: “You just put some paint on the brush and wipe it on the canvass.” And now look at the work he has done over the past seven years! He has just blown my mind with his body of work. He has far succeeded my success. I’ve never had an exposition but he has had an exposition at the Westmorland museum of American art.
--What inspires you in your work with art?
--Kevin: I see art in everything, people, places, animals, design, function, I see beauty. A number of years ago we went to Paris with some friends and we spent a day at the Versailles museum. I could see that Robert’s eyes were getting bigger and bigger. We’d been there for most of the day looking at all the works of art and at one point Robert just wheeled around and said: “I’m an artist!” Most people see the world as it is. We don’t. We see the world’s potential.
--Do you feel rejected by society?
--Kevin: I don’t really care. There are people out there who are waiting to see a spark of creativity, another way of doing things.
Allen Miller Arts Sawmill Barn Art Gallery & Studio Visits: 717 927 9405 / Robert Allen: 215 837 8172 email: Robert@AllenMillerArts.com
Keven Miller: 215 837 8171