The secret is in the connection.
When Mark Millis and Melanie Millis Wissel go out into the Indiana landscape to paint, they never know what scenes will catch their eye. Dynamic water, peaceful forests, well-worn homes …
“I’m looking for something that tells a story for me,” Millis Wissel said.
Millis and Millis Wissel have teamed up to share some of their favorite landscapes in a new art exhibition, “Close to Home.” From serene river scenes and tranquil neighborhoods to well-known local landmarks such as the Historic Artcraft Theatre and Province Park, the show is an opportunity for the siblings to showcase their adventures in plein air painting.
“I like to paint things that, for me, there’s an emotional attachment. I think a lot of these landscapes will be paintings that people will look at and think, that reminds of this scene or that scene,” Millis said. “It’s going to be paintings people will recognize, especially those in Johnson County.”
“Close to Home” is now showing at the Southside Art League, and will be on display through Nov. 25.
“We picked the theme ‘Close to Home’ because we’re close with each other, and do a lot of things togther,” Millis said. “We’re painting some similar places. Often when we paint together, we’ll paint in the same place, but something completely different. We don’t want the scene to be the exact same.”
Growing up, both Millis and Millis Wissel were introduced to landscape art by their father. He worked as a physician in Richmond, and started collecting art when some patients who were artists paid him in art.
He also collected Brown County artists, and would bring to family to their studios on vacation. Both Millis and Millis Wissel also became collectors of Indiana art, and engaged their own artistic talent.
Millis Wissel majored in art at DePauw University and interned with an artist in New York City after graduation. She likes to experiment with different subjects like portraits and abstract designs. She went on to work in library science, retiring four years ago as manager of program and project development for the Indianapolis Public Library.
Her style is impressionistic, described as fanciful yet maintaining a realistic representation.
“You get into a zone sometimes where you just feel joyful — like you’re doing something new and different,” Millis Wissel said. “It takes you to a different place. When you’re in that zone, it feels really good.”
Millis began painting seriously after he retired as assistant superintendent of Richmond Community Schools, after years as a teacher and administrator at various Johnson County school systems.
Though he considers himself primarily a self-taught artist, he has taken lessons with Southside Art League artists Donna Shortt, Mary Ann Davis, Corrine Hull and Roy Boswell, which accelerated his development, he said. His style is impressionistic and considers himself a “colorist,” emphasizing contrasts in light and shadow in many of his paintings.
As adults, Millis and Millis Wissel have found a bond in artistry — particularly plein air painting. They often travel to locations around the state and beyond, painting out in the elements. In numerous competitions, outdoor painting events and “paint outs,” they’ve each accumulated a number of awards and recognitions.
Taking part in such competitions together has been rewarding, even if it has fostered a small amount of healthy sibling rivalry.
“We just have fun together. Sometimes, there’s that competition when awards are given out. It’s great if both of us get recognized, but then that brother-sister thing kicks in a little bit,” Millis said.
With their experience at the Southside Art League, when the organization put out a call earlier in the year for artists interested in being featured in an exhibition, Millis and Millis Wissel jumped at the opportunity. The chance to do a show as siblings seemed like an interesting wrinkle.
For “Close to Home,” Millis Wissel and Millis each chose a series of paintings from their plein air sessions. They’ve painted at events in Richmond, Fort Wayne, Carmel and elsewhere, fostering relationships in the tight-knit enclave of plein air artists.
“The plein air movement, especially in Indiana, seems to be a place where artists can really find a community,” Millis Wissel said. “It’s a very collegial group — they’re very supportive of each other, and willing to help other artists in their journey and learning path.”
Being able to plan an exhibition together has been incredibly rewarding for the siblings. They hope people who come to see their work feel the same way.
“It’s really special. At this point in our lives, to be able to come together and have the time now to spend together, spending that time in something that’s a mutual interest, is very special to me,” Millis Wissel said.
IF YOU GO
”Close to Home”
What: An art show featuring siblings Mark Millis, a Bargersville resident, and Melanie Millis Wissel, who lives in Carmel. The works showcase their favorite landscape paintings.
Where: Southside Art League Off Broadway Gallery, 299 E. Broadway, Greenwood
When: Through Nov. 25
Gallery hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; closed Sunday through Tuesday
Reception: Millis and Wissel will host a reception for the public from 2 to 5 p.m. Nov. 12 at the gallery. Light refreshments will be served.