Idaho Arts Quarterly » East Idaho

A FAMILY OF ARTISTS ...

Inspiring each other and others

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Melinda Ann Peterson is not only an accomplished artist also, she is the mother of two accomplished artists.

Artists are sometimes said to march to their own beat, however, that process is likely aided when your mother and siblings hear the same cadence.

A yoga philosophy lecturer and an intuitive counselor (read: psychic) Melinda, 54, is a Pocatello small-business owner and a huge influence on her children and their artistic pursuits.

"In our household, there's a lot of creativity going on all the time," Melinda said. "We're always talking about what we sense and feel ..."

Melinda's daughter, Yarrow Miller, said creativity and expressiveness have been an emphasis throughout her life and that her friends have always "loved" her Mom for her openness and good nature.

"We were encouraged to risk exploring the world around us instead of locking up feelings inside of us," Yarrow said.

"I don't live in the confines of what society expects," Melinda added.

One skill Melinda has taught her children, at least through example, is to follow one's muse whenever it strikes.

Peterson had been working on a new painting last fall called "Life: In Death's Shadow," when she awoke at 3 a.m. with a vision on what the work should look like.

Despite the late hour, she headed straight for her art studio, where she stayed until 9 a.m. It was later that same day she learned her mother Kathryn Peterson had died.

The elder Peterson was "an artist at living life" and had pushed her daughter and granddaughter to pursue their dreams and interests, Melinda said.

"She heavily influenced my mother's spirit" and individuality, Yarrow said.

Melinda, who believes strongly in reincarnation and who has been a "mover since I learned to walk" said she sees art as a continuation of all movement.

"You're just moving paint around on a canvas," she said. "I'm doing what I see in my mind's eye."

Collin Miller said growing up with his sister and mother both being artists has been an enriching experience.

"It's inspiring," he said." There's so much joy. It makes me really happy inside, and I'm super proud."

Artist Yarrow Miller has a different approach to stress. She turns her problems into art.

"My pieces are usually described as beautifully disturbing," Yarrow said.

The "art gene," as a friend of Yarrow's dubbed the recent three-pronged exhibit featuring each family member's individual talent, didn't surface in Yarrow until a few years ago.

Yarrow, 27, who until recently had no formal training in art, won a school-wide art competition at Idaho State University in 2001. A contest judge asked her if the winning piece, "War: Creation Bleeding into the Structure of Defiance," was intentionally disturbing.

It remains an easy question for Yarrow to answer and one she's obviously considered at length. "I use those emotions inside in the piece of art," she said. "It's a beautiful way to process."

Yarrow explained she works to use her unique art pieces that exclusively feature found items to rid her soul of painful experiences.

"War obliterates creation ... The inhumanity of war devalues human life," she said.

Yarrow, who is also an accomplished chef, sees art as perhaps the only place in society where conversations can occur unobstructed and work to raise levels of consciousness.

"There are so many things in our society that people don't talk about," she said. As an artist, that's what I want to get people to think about. Art is the only aspect of our culture that can defy categorization and censorship and social taboos. Somebody [needs] to expose those things."

Three of Melinda Ann Peterson's new paintings are more in line with the type of disturbing violent art normally created by her daughter.

Not surprisingly, these new works rank among her daughter's favorites.

Reflecting on parts of her own troubled past and the pain she's witnessed in her son, Melinda did three paintings showing violence and anger that isn't present in many of her other works.

The paintings, Broken Lives/Domestic Violence, Scream/Chronic Pain and Imperialism/American Style, are jagged, angry snapshots of disturbing episodes.

Yarrow agreed and hailed their potent emotion and power.

The Broken Lives painting was inspired by a 1984 domestic violence incident and the Scream painting was Melinda's way of capturing the pain of her son Collin's continual migraine headaches.

Collin Miller has won art contests and still enjoys breaking out the watercolors once in a while.

However, he's more comfortable playing jazz scales, bopping chords with a Pocatello reggae band or talking about the similarities of Delta Blues and early country music.

Collin not only plays music, he lives and breathes it.

A 29-year-old guitar major at Idaho State University, Collin owns more than 2,000 CDs-a collection that dwarfs the compact disc stack at KISU, the station where Collin has worked since 2004. Collin comes by his divergent music collection honestly.

He is an enthusiastic fan of everyone from soul masters Earth, Wind and Fire to blues icon Elmore James to jazz legend Cannonball Adderly.

And that doesn't even count the classical guitar players and composers who comprise his academic itinerary.

In other words, if it exists in the music universe, Collin is likely a fan.

He even respects the work of recently killed former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell.

Collin used to host KISU's nightly "Rhythm and Blues" show that featured various styles of blues on some nights and obscure funk and soul classics on other evenings.

He's now shifted gears into a new realm. Starting last December, Collin began hosting KISU's "Sweet Sounds" show, which airs each weekday at 10 a.m. In this format, Collin takes listeners around the jazz universe, stopping for stalwarts Miles Davis and John Coltrane and bending ears to more obscure artists such as Mike Clark and Joe Pass.