Advanced Search

Florence Miller Pierce

1918 Washington, District of Columbia - 2007 Albuquerque, New Mexico

Nonobjective artist Florence Miller Pierce was born Florence Melva Miller in 1918 in Washington, D.C. Her parents owned and managed a large boarding school. Her mother was from New Mexico and Miller Pierce's parents retired to Albuquerque after World War II. Miller Pierce frequently traveled to visit her mother's family in Albuquerque and Santa Fe as a child. She began studying art in high school and took classes at the Studio School of the Phillips Collection in 1935-36. She travelled to New Mexico to study with Emil Bisttram in Taos for the summer of 1936. She took some classes at the Corcoran School of Art in the fall of 1936 following her return to Washington, D.C. but decided to return to Taos in January 1937 to study fulltime with Emil Bisttram at the Bisttram School of Fine Art. There she met Horace Towner Pierce, another art student, and they married in 1938. Miller Pierce and her husband were members of the Transcendental Painting Group which was founded by Bisttram and Raymond Jonson in 1938. Miller Pierce was the youngest member and one of only two women in the group. In 1939, her first son died at the age of 4 months, she stopped painting for a time, and the Pierce's moved to New York. Following the birth of their second son, Christopher, they moved to Washington, D.C. to live and work with Miller Pierce's parents. They then moved to Los Angeles in 1942 where Horace worked as a commercial artist and Miller Pierce resumed her art. Horace was drafted in 1944 and released on a medical discharge after ninety days of training, which affected his physical and mental health. To help him recover, the family moved back to New Mexico in 1946, settling in Santa Fe. However, they soon moved to Albuquerque in 1949 to be closer to medical treatment for Horace's health and he died at the age of 41 due to a cerebral hemorrhage in 1958. Miller Pierce stopped painting for about ten years following his death and took some classes in anthropology at the University of New Mexico. It was at this time that she began to use her husband's last name. In the late 1960s, she was introduced to sandblasting and began experimenting with carving wood, foam, and stone. In 1969 an accidental spill of resin onto a piece of aluminum foil led her to start making resin reliefs (what she called lucamorphs). She was awarded the 2003 Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts. She died in 2007.