Oral history interview with Michael C. McMillen
Portions of this collection are digitized

Collection ID:
McMillen, Michael C.
Karlstrom, Paul J.
1997 Apr. 15-Dec. 8
Physical Description:
5 Sound cassettes
Sound recording, master (5 hrs.)
73 Pages

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
An interview of Michael C. McMillen conducted on 1997 Apr. 15-Dec. 8, by Paul Karlstrom, for the Archives of American Art.
Scope and Contents
Interview with McMillen begins with a discussion about growing up in post-war California, visiting television sets where his father was a scenic artist, and the beginning of an interest in illusion and other realities. He discusses how he became fascinated with ancient civilizations after a visit in 1957 to the Metropolitan Musuem of Art; from this experience he became interested in decay, change, and disintegration. He discusses the elements of open narrative, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks. He acknowledges the influence of California assemblage movement, aerospace, and Hollywood as sources for his material and art practice.
Scope and Contents
McMillen explains his goal is to surround the viewer with a total expereince, including smell, sound, moisture, and temperature. He feels that art reflects time and place, a response to history, and a metaphor for events. He next recalls "Journey to the Surface," a submarine, incorporating stand-alone pieces in a large installation that uses historical objects as time markers. He feels that his work is an accumulation of "stuff" that is used as a source for personal identity and the viewer brings his own history pieces and markers of progress through life. He concludes with a discussion of the function of art, as a personal expression and self-validation rather than the political/social aspect of much contemporary art.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Michael C. McMillen (1946- ) is a painter and installation artist from Los Angeles, Calif. McMillen studied at Santa Monica City College and San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University at Northridge), with Hans Burkhardt. He spent his early career as a model builder for the movies which included making props for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Blade Runner".

Funding for the transcription of this interview provided by the Pasadena Art Alliance. Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.

Originally recorded on 5 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 10 digital wav files. Duration is 5 hrs., 5 min.

Digital Content

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Painters -- California -- Los Angeles -- Interviews Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art -- Philosophy Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound recordings Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001