Shelley Miller

Born in Melville (Saskatchewan).   Lives and works in Montreal (Quebec).


Shelley Miller creates site-specific projects in public spaces, both with ephemeral and permanent materials. She also produces impermanent street installations using sugar. These ephemeral murals have been published in several anthologies about the history of sugar, street art, graffiti and installation art. She received her BFA from the Alberta College of Art and Design and her MFA from Concordia University.


Her sugar murals are site-specific, in that she creates each one taking into account the history of a place and creating the work on site. Documentation of the process of erosion is integral to the work. The photos become the final document since they show the full story; wealth and power as it evolves (devolves) into decay. The erasure is a comment on history, and the way that history is forgotten, erased, or fades in photos or in people’s memories.

In the past, most of her murals depicted historical imagery and referencing. In recent years, the artist has decided to incorporate more contemporary imagery into her murals. She creates murals that look like painted ceramic murals, blue azulejo style, but are made entirely of sugar, and hand-painted with edible inks These ephemeral murals address the history of sugar, its links to colonization and slavery, and ideas about consumption and power.


The sugar mural the Symposium will address new forms of slavery and oppression, and the contrast of global wealth distribution. Instead of caravels and slave ships in the central image, her mural will depict luxury cruise ships navigating the Mediterranean Sea, as dinghy boats overflowing with Syrian refugees pass them. It’s not so simple as “developed” and “undeveloped” countries anymore; autocrats profit while the masses starve. A new element for Miller will be to keep the mural indoors. In the past, rain always washed the image away, but now the artist wants to “wash” away the image with a sponge and water. Hence, the work becomes performative, where the artist takes control of the frustration she feels from seeing a world in chaos. Although the artist presents many social problems in her mural, her aim is to show hope at the end of this darkness.

Miller works


Cargo (detail) hand made sugar tiles, hand painted, photos courtesy of the artist