Melinda Miles,

Pasatiempo - - Art -

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

Train Time,

2009, acrylic on panel, 11 x 12 inches

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