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Miles Williams Mathis:
an Extended Biography
(for the curious as well as old friends)




Although some believe he may have been hatched from an egg deposited in mysterious ways in the 19th century or cloned from the fingernail clippings of a Florentine Fra, trusted paperwork informs us that Miles Williams Mathis was born in Amarillo, Texas, on the 17th of September, in the wee hours of the morning. Scant months later, we imagine, he must have ventured from his swaddling clothes and stuffed animals, upon hands and knees, muling and burbling, in search of his first crayon.



In hindsight, his earliest claim to an artistic future would appear to be a train drawn with perspective when he was four years old. The drawing was saved and his mother dated it and wrote on it this exchange: (Mom) "But Miles, why is the caboose smaller than the engine?" (Miles) "Because it is farther away." Miles' parents were not artists and he had not been taught perspective, so this was not a leading question.

When Miles was four the Mathis family moved to Lubbock, Texas. In grade school he was remembered by classmates for his wall-size dinosaur and evolution murals, his
Peanuts cartoons, his perfect signature forgeries, his very loud singing in choir, his pretty girlfriends, and his vast time in the hall and in the principal's office. He distinguished himself even more for F's in citizenship than for A's in everything else.

Having skipped first grade and being a year younger than everyone else, he entered puberty late compared to his classmates and was left behind socially in junior high. The pretty girlfriends were no more. This gave him time to get involved in just about everything else. In junior high he became disenchanted with art classes and never took another one. Instead he joined the band and the choir, the tennis team and the golf team; in short, became a nerd. His posters helped a best friend (who carried a briefcase) become student body president, and the nerds temporarily ruled.

As a young teenager Miles was one of the top junior golfers in the state, winning many regional tournaments. He also won several local tennis tournaments. In this period he became a fledgling wildlife artist, beginning by copying Clark Bronson drawings when he was 11, moving on to drawing from wildlife photographs in magazines like
National Geographic and finally working from his own photographs and from nature.

Miles attended Monterey High School and excelled in many areas there. He won several UIL science medals, was twice first chair all-region band {tenor saxophone}, won awards with the jazz band, was a finalist in writing contests, and was chosen to design various visual items (such as prom invitations, tickets, and brochure covers) despite not being in the art classes. In addition, he was the national Latin champion for two years. As a senior he won the JCL scholarship from the state committee of classics. He was also a National Merit Scholar and won the local National Honor Society Scholarship. He should be remembered by the takers of the PSAT, 1980, for questioning one of the answers on the math portion. The PSAT admitted its error and was forced to change all scores nationally. Miles' score: 68/78:214.

He turned down several scholarship offers in engineering, including one to Rice, instead choosing to study liberal arts at Haverford College.Unhappy there, he followed a girlfriend to the University of Texas, Austin, after only one semester. He immediately tested out of a year and half of classwork, including 16 hours of Latin. He had 82 hours of credit before he started his second year. Taking a bit of a breather, Miles loaded his schedule with PE credits, like diving, gymnastics and ballet. He was soon tapped by his ballet teacher to join a local company, where he danced for two years, including a minor role in
Sleeping Beauty. He also began publishing a comic strip with the Daily Texan, one of the largest and best student papers in the country (and the breeding ground for such cartoonists as Berke Breathed, Sam Hurt, and Chris Ware~in 1980 Breathed had just taken his student strip Academia Waltz into syndication as Bloom County). Miles' strip Squib was was published for three years to wide acclaim and national awards before being picked up for syndication by King Features as part of The New Breed.

Meanwhile, Miles reached the end of his second year only 9 hours short of a degree. Rather than take the 9 hours in summer school and graduate at age 19, Miles decided to tour Europe on his racing bike with his younger brother. Landing in Frankfurt, they rode south to Italy through the Black Forest and over the Alps. In Rome they turned back to Paris and eventually closed the circle to Frankfurt, with many a mishap along the way~including the younger brother's Vespa crash in Rome and Miles' head-on with a car door in Sienna.

Miles' senior year was a very light load of conference courses in Latin and philosophy (and some sitting-in on graduate courses). He wrote his paper for Special Honors in philosophy for Paul Woodruff on Plato, and also won the Machette paper contest with an entry on post-existentialism. He graduated
summa cum laude with keys from both Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies.

A summer of cartooning, dancing with the ballet, and being a disc jockey at a local club was not enough to impress the parents, and he bowed to their pressure to enroll at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in the fall (a law school compromise, basically). The LBJ School, along with Georgetown in DC, is one of the top two public affairs schools in the country. Miles was given a full merit scholarship, and he landed an in-demand class with Barbara Jordan his first semester. But, unimpressed with the curriculum and feeling out of place, he returned his scholarship money and set himself adrift. While continuing to cartoon, dance, and ride his bike, he moved from one short-term job to another, including waiting tables and being the Children's Summer Series coordinator for the Austin Symphony Orchestra. Finally, finding the comics page to be even more obsolescent than painting, he drifted to the latter, slowly developing a new course of auto-didacticism.

In 1986 the great Spanish portrait painter Joaquin Torrents Llado came to Austin to paint the Governor's wife. Miles saw a show of his work and immediately made his acquaintance. Soon he was invited to watch the master paint, and it was here that the torch was passed. Miles had found a living mentor, if only for a few hours.

In 1987 Miles began copying from the old masters, at first from books and then making trips to museums. His first museum copy was a Sargent at the Dallas Museum of Art, where he was the first copyist in history. Until Miles asked for permission, the DMA didn't even have a policy. He was at first denied permission, since the curator didn't know what to do in the event. The director finally relented, and some four hours later Miles was out of their hair again permanently, having learned what he came to learn. A similar encounter did not turn out so favorably at the Kimball in Fort Worth, where Miles wanted to copy a Van Dyck. He was refused, the museum's policy being no copywork due to the size of the museum. The Kimball claimed that the copyist would block foot traffic, but this seems to be no problem in the more crowded museums of Europe. Or, if it is a problem, it is one that the foot traffic and the museum must find a way to deal with.



Miles next went to the San Antonio Museum of Art, where the staff were much friendlier and accomodating. There he copied a detail of Bouguereau's
Admiration.

In 1990, Miles won the Basil Alkazzi Award to travel to London, where he did copywork at the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) and the National Gallery. At the Tate he copied a detail of Sargent's
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose in oil and copied a detail of Millais' Ophelia in pastels. The Sargent copy~like the one in Dallas~took about four hours, and he turned down several buyers on the museum floor. One tourist said he thought the copy was better than the original (Miles disagreed strongly). Another laughed and said that Miles must be Sargent's ghost, just remembering what he had already done. The museum curator liked the copy so much he offered to hang it on his office wall to dry while Miles went to Oxford to copy at the Ashmolean. Miles gladly accepted, though he doubted that this was standard procedure with copyists.

At the National Gallery, Miles failed to get permission to copy in oils. One must jump through a whole series of time-consuming hoops there, including offering referees. So he decided to copy Van Dyck's
Cornelius van der Geest in pastels. This was also strictly against the rules, but Miles worked so fast that by the time the guard noticed him he was finished. The guard came over to complain and Miles said, "OK, done! Bye!"

At the Ashmolean, the Allori he had come to copy was hung too high to see without glare. So Miles again played cat and mouse with the guard, standing on a forbidden chair to take a forbidden picture.

On this trip Miles also stopped in Windsor to see the picturesque town and castle. Having his sketching materials with him, he climbed a ten-foot iron fence on the back lawn to sketch the queen's horses in their royal blankets. The guards did not appreciate the novelty of this, and they chased him through the streets of Windsor with their whistles blowing. He was caught (with a copy of Thoreau's
Civil Disobedience in his backpack) and severely reprimanded, but ultimately let off with a warning.

Tired of the big-city rigamarole and the police chases, Miles escaped to Dorset to finish off his scholarship money. Going to Evershot, home of the Tess cottage, Miles was let off the train at a "request only" stop in the middle of a field, where he had to hike ten miles into town, over hedgerows and through fields of bluebells. He felt lost in a scene from
The Woodlanders, until a nice lady in a tiny Mr. Bean car helped him with his easel and canvases over the last stretch of highway, and saved him a little legwork. In Evershot he stayed in a loft over the butcher's and had dinner with the pretty gardener across the street. She introduced him to the next door neighbor, who paid him 50 pounds to draw a small pastel view of his thatched-roof house.

Other art trips to Bruges, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Bordeaux, Copenhagen, Paris, Goteburg, Rome, Florence, and Venice were equally enlightening if somewhat less "disobedient." Miles never seemed to learn a respect for authority however, as he was ejected from the Cathedral in Vienna at Christmas mass in 1999 for wearing a stocking cap (after a nasty look from the Cardinal himself).

In his defense, it was about 2 degrees celsius that day inside the church, and many old men no doubt died of consumption that week from attending the service (only the women were allowed common sense, and fur caps). Miles has always been a strong defender of feminism, including all that it requires in a full and logical implementation.

From the beginning of his career Miles has been the subject of both admiration and conflict. At an early show in Lubbock, Miles removed his work from the walls with his own hands after abnormalities in judging, even though he was a multiple award winner. He has given a tongue lashing to judges at the Akron Society of Artists, ASOPA and the National Sculpture Competition, among others. In Austin he was the go-to person for dissenting commentary on art in the newspaper: no one else wanted to go on record contradicting the status quo. For his opinion on the AIDS "Day Without Art" he was banned from some local businesses, and once wore a scarlet letter A when being asked to leave one of them. He also spoke out strongly against local architecture and architects, and the opposition in one of these skirmishes secretly changed its media presentation in response to one of Miles' letters to the editor. More recently he has become notorious for his attacks both upon the avant garde and upon the new realists, including the directors at the Art Renewal Center.

His letters have amused and exasperated editors at many of the major newspapers and magazines in the US (and more recently in the UK). An especially strong letter to
Antiques and Fine Art had the appearance of bringing the magazine down altogether, as it folded soon afterwards. Time and again Miles' strongly worded rebukes and exhortations have caused people at many different levels and from many different backgrounds to reassess their positions. No longer can the leading critics publish facile opinion uncontested. There is a daemon lurking and they now know it.

In 2003, Miles sent a letter to the London newspapers, criticizing the decision of the Tate Britain to allow Rodin's
The Kiss to be wrapped in string by a contemporary artist. He recommended that London realists storm the museum with scissors. The letter was printed in full by the Independent, and less than two weeks later a London artist was arrested for cutting the strings off the sculpture. He was not charged.

For the first time in decades, the left has serious opposition from within its own ranks. ARC hired Miles to attack the left, not realizing that he was the strangest of bedfellows. Had they known that they had hired a former worker for Earth First, a card-carrying member of Greenpeace, an unrepentant Chomskyite, even a supporter of Ward Churchill, they would surely have been kept up nights. Miles learned to write by reading Thoreau and Wendell Berry, so it is unlikely that he would share the political views of the neocons. Miles' readings of Nietzsche~another mentor~had steered him not to Ayn Rand and Social Darwinism, but to an artist-centered theory of art that would turn out to be a truly extraordinary stance at the end of the 20th century. This stance has allowed Miles to critique both the left and the right from a position of unassailable power: a stance of power since it is ultimately futile to deny that the artist is the primary hand and voice of art. Only another artist could logically have the standing to refute him, and no true artist would do so. What artist would argue that non-artists should control art?

In 2000 Miles moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, where, snuggled in amongst the five colleges, he began his serious scientific studies. He had majored for a short time in physics and astronomy at UT Austin, where he impressed his professors with a very quick mind. In his first course for physics majors, one designed to weed out the weak, the class average was 52. Miles ruined the curve with a 100. In astronomy it was the same: Miles had the high average among all the first-year classes. This was reminiscent of high school, where the calculus teacher had a longstanding trick of asking all his second-year algebra students a pre-calculus question, a leading variant of the problem Newton and Leibniz were working on when they invented the calculus. No one had ever answered it correctly. Miles did.

He had also kept up his readings in science since college, although this consisted mainly of updates on the latest theories. But, unsatisfied with the direction these theories were taking, Miles finally began studying the history of theoretical physics in earnest, especially as it related to classical mechanics and basic physics. He bought a small library of old books like Newton's
Principia, Euclid's and Archimedes' treatises, Maxwell's papers, and all of Einstein's original writings. He also brushed up on his calculus and began looking into the origins of that math. This ultimately led him to Cauchy and Cantor, set theory, topology, and several other subfields, which he investigated to whatever ends he was following at the time.

His galleries now full of paintings (and selling quite slowly), he was free to write papers of his own. In the ten years since, Miles has written several books worth of papers, all of which investigate simple mathematical anomalies within broader physical theories or higher maths. These papers are published on a website linked to his art website as well as at a larger online journal devoted to dissenting opinion in physics (Walter Babin's alternative journal, where Miles has gotten ten million hits). Since the first of these papers concerned Relativity, and since Relativity is considered by the status quo to be a closed and finished field, Miles' papers have been censored and slandered by the universities. Some university professors are beginning to take note, however. The current theoretical wall in physics has led even some top names out of standard channels, and a few appear to be trolling the internet for new possibilities. Miles has been contacted by several professors worldwide, [recently added: and in 2010 he was contacted by an astrophysicist at NASA and Johns Hopkins, who recommended he publish in book form ASAP. This NASA scientist even offered to write the introduction, and Miles' first physics book came out in the summer of that year. Another reader offered to bankroll his second book, which came out in late 2011].


Montalivet, France

In 2004 Miles moved to Bruges, Belgium, a preferred retreat. In this true artists' town, where stand statues to Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling (and the mathematician Simon Stevin), Miles could retain equilibrium while fighting on a thousand fronts. Solace in the form of silent swans and brooding canal bridges and rooftops glistening from a recent rain were always but a few steps away, out his green door. The finest chocolate and beer in the world could remove him instantly from the messiest squabble, keeping his faced unlined and his eyes bright and his brush hand (the left) steady.

Also calming is his piano, which he plays almost daily. After a year of lessons when he was 12, Miles waited 20 years to take up the instrument again. At that time he began teaching himself what would be considered an impossible repertoire for someone with one year of childhood training. Remembering only Bach's
Minuet, he jumped immediately into Debussy's Claire de Lune. With that under his belt he added The Girl with the Flaxen Hair and Reverie, then Ravel's Pavane for a Dead Princess, Liszt's Consolation #3, Schumann's Romance #2 and Of Foreign Lands and People, Tchaikovsky's Seasons, Rachmaninov's Prelude in G, Satie's Gymnopedies, a couple of Chopin Etudes, and many others. Some of these pieces are beastly difficult in timing, but none are especially fast (except perhaps parts of Claire de Lune).

In the winter of 2007, while on vacation in Spain, Miles solved what has been billed as the oldest surviving math problem in the world. Travelling like an Amishman, with no phone, no laptop, no reservations, and one pair of pants and shoes, he was in a position to let his mind wander, which was the whole point. Not seeing Mardi Gras coming, he arrived in Cordoba with no booking and spent the night in a carpark. But this also only encouraged fresher thoughts. By the time he made it to the naturist beach in Vera Playa, his brain had been well-primed for real work. Bored with the blowing sand and the fat naked Germans denting the dunes, he dove into the internet cafes to take solace with his papers. He took up an old paper on Goldbach's Conjecture he had worked on for a few weeks several years earlier and attacked it furiously, refusing to let several bouts of bad math deter him. After a few days he had discovered the secret, and re-surfaced with a simple proof that can be understood by any good reader. Somewhere, distant towers were swaying once again.

Also in 2007, Miles finally got around to working with a gallery in Bruges. There you can find several oils and pastels. Miles also works in clay and bronze sculpture, and occasionally develops his own photography prints. These are normally hand-toned 11x14 inch prints of pictures he takes of his painting models, in the same sessions in which he paints. Many but not all of these are nudes. He has offered a whole book of his photographs of the young model Tess to various publishers such as Aperture, with no success. These will have to wait for a future release, like the photos of Reverend Dodgson or Julia Margaret Cameron.

Compiled by Marie-Claude Lacroix, formerly of Cirque du Soleil and boleadoras performer extraordinaire.