remained her friend for the next three decades — at a drawing class led by Levin. Throughout her time in Santa Fe, Miles worked as a literacy volunteer and in the theater building props, a craft she learned while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in technical-theater studies at the College of Santa Fe.
Miles’ studio, left intact by Phister since her death, save for the addition of several of her self-portraits that he has hung throughout the room, is orderly and clean. For each series of paintings, Miles left behind a legacy that includes folders and drawers full of images and notes relating to a particular theme of interest. She documented every aspect of her artistic process. For the train series, she had binders full of photos of trains — often taken during her own travels — quotes about trains, and sketches that became detailed works on paper that would eventually become paintings. Her process was slow and laborious and not without its difficulties.
“Sometimes she destroyed paintings she didn’t think were any good,” Phister said. When she changed from oil painting to acrylics, Miles, unhappy with her early results, got rid of the paintings. “I remember when she was transitioning,” McCarty said, “and she did a lot of work just trying to get it the way she wanted.”
“She was practically obsessive about doing everything perfectly and correctly,” Levin said, “and she was very good at that kind of stuff. She was very mechanical.”
Directions is the last painting Miles made. It shows a man in a train depot at the juncture of several passageways: a lone figure at a crossroads, unsure, perhaps, which way to turn. This final artistic statement has a poignancy. Any direction could take the man deeper into the labyrinthine structure, but there is a flight of stairs that may lead him up and away — the figure is turned slightly toward it. Directions is about indecision and choices, and like the other works in the train series, it reflects a sense of fate and the journey through life.
“Melinda knew she was ill some eight or nine months before she passed away, and she knew that her chances were not really good,” Thomson said. “I think her main concern was that the last exhibit
2009, acrylic on panel, 11 x 12 inches