In 1992, I was named editor of one of America’s truly alternative alternative papers: In Pittsburgh Newsweekly. The story of my tenure there is best told elsewhere; let’s just say it was a stressful time in my life. But, during my three-plus years there, I had an amazing wing man: The newspaper’s art director, Bill Miller.
Pittsburgh’s Growing Art Scene
Bill was a gifted artist and art director — the glue that held the paper together. But outside of our “colorful” office on Pittsburgh’s fabled South Side, he was another persona altogether. He co-founded the Industrial Arts Co-op, a band of rebellious punk rocker artists who broke into abandoned steel mills and made art there. I took my four-year-old son to one of their “shows,” Space Monkey. These exhibits were totally illegal and prone to police raids. It was all too exciting.
Right around that time Bill started dumpster diving for art materials. He worked in acrylics mostly at the time, but became fascinated with the old vinyl flooring–linoleum–that people were throwing out as they renovated the beautiful old homes on the South Side. Soon, Bill began to forge a name for himself as “that artist who works with linoleum.” Meantime, as Bill was moving into the found object or trash art space, artist J.S.G. Boggs had moved to Pittsburgh and was holed up in an illegal warehouse space.
Boggs’ contribution the world of art was to make very detailed copies of U.S. currency, but always with a twist. He might add different words to a depiction of a $50 bill, or a new image. His renderings were so precise that he was constantly hounded by U.S. Treasury enforcement, who wanted to send him to prison for counterfeiting. Boggs became attached to the staff at In Pittsburgh. We covered his travails or antics, whichever you prefer. Bill had his own opinions on Boggs’ art, which we frequently discussed. Boggs eventually moved on to another city as did I. Bill worked tirelessly on his linoleum art, constantly pushing into unexplored territory. He too moved on, to New York City and the Village Voice. His linoleum art career took off.
Recognition on Wikipedia
We kept in touch. This year, I noticed that Boggs had passed away in early 2017. I further noticed that Boggs had a Wikipedia page. When I checked Wikipedia for Bill’s entry, I found nothing. I contacted him and said, “This ain’t right. If Boggs has a Wikipedia entry, you certainly should have one.” He wanted to know how Wikipedia worked. “You’ve come to the right person,” I told him.
Bill and I first gathered all the news coverage about him we could find. There was quite a bit, from the New York Times and Chicago Tribune to Pittsburgh City Paper, a less progressive version of In Pittsburgh Newsweekly. I told him he was clearly notable. Among his work that got a fair amount of press were the two album covers made from discarded linoleum for posthumous Frank Zappa albums commissioned by Gail Zappa, Frank’s widow.
But beyond such high-profile projects, Bill has captured the imagination of the news media and art community worldwide because of the the novelty of his medium and the beauty he created from worn-out flooring people threw into the dumpster. He’s truly unique.
Long story short: Bill now has a Wikipedia article. It’s still a bit of a work in progress; as of this writing we haven’t chosen the images to place on the page. And with Bill’s reputation continuing to grow, he’ll be able to add to it as more people attempt to capture his essence in print. I’m proud to have made it happen, because I still owe Bill for his support way back when I was the editor and he had my back during difficult times.