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Steve Miller (b. 1951), Collective History Through a Cultural Amnesia, 1988; acrylic, oil and silkscreen on canvas, 79 x 59 1/2 inches; Gift of Johanne Miller, 1991

Steve Miller (b. 1951), Collective History Through a Cultural Amnesia, 1988; acrylic, oil and silkscreen on canvas, 79 x 59 1/2 inches; Gift of Johanne Miller, 1991

Two images culled from radically different sources resonate as facets of front and back-lit originals in Steve Miller’s enigmatic diptych, Collective History Through a Cultural Amnesia. On top, a painted version of an MRI, the medical diagnostic tool called magnetic resonance imaging, reveals patterns hidden in a human body. It represents a search for the cause of a disease, the personal details of an individual that affect the time sequence of cure or mortality. Below, a portion of Marcel Duchamp’s seminal work, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), created 1915-23, floats upside down as if a literal reflection of a reflection. In this detail, even the original, accidental cracks are simulated, suggesting its inherent flaws that had been accepted, even flaunted, by the artist. Combined, the illuminated images create a dialogue, pitting personal family history against art history, mapping vulnerability in an exchange of complementary specimens that can only be analyzed by a specialist. — Nancy Weekly