FAMED GRATEFUL DEAD ARTIST HAS HIS OWN SPACE
Stanley "Mouse" Miller, every Dead Head's favorite living poster artist, has opened a gallery of his own, Rockin Roses, on the square in Healdsburg, CA (243 A Healdsburg Ave.). It's got a ton of art, T-shirts, paintings and so forth, including his latest show, which focuses on the feminine figure like this painting below.
Stanley "Mouse" Miller was born to a Disney animator who took his family to live in Detroit in the 1950s. The combination of Motown music and the city's obsession with motorcars with his birthright genius at drawing made his life path very clear at a very early age. By the 7th grade he'd become known for his sketches of monster-driven muscle cars and mice, and earned his lifelong nom de crayon.
He found a niche in the Detroit hot rod culture by detailing extraordinary paint jobs on vehicles until no quality hot rod in town could be seen without a Mouse pinstriping job. Soon after, he began applying his favorite subjects to T-shirts with an airbrush. Now confident about working with unusual surfaces, he tried the freshly painted walls of a local teen hangout and was expelled from high school.
He enrolled at Detroit's School for the Society of Arts and Crafts, and found inspiration only in the work of a young woman in his painting class, who was depicting their models as monsters. "I was amazed and a little disappointed, maybe a little grossed out," said Mouse, "that she was making the beautiful model into a monster. That was something that I did on weekends at hotrod shows. I was in art school trying to learn how to paint the model like Rembrandt, not Picasso. It also showed me that by painting monsters, I was doing the right art movement at the right time. But there seemed to be a higher calling: to paint like the masters."
The psychedelic experienced expanded his vision and his style, and soon, like so many children of the '60s, he left for San Francisco – although he was probably one of the few who drove out in a Porsche. Hanging out with fellow Detroiters, he fell in with the original members of The Family Dog, a collective which produced SF's first rock dances. One of those Dogs was Alton Kelley, and they quickly became partners.
Mouse was the draftsman and Kelley held down the composition, conceptualization and promotion; better still, Kelley was left-handed and Mouse right-handed, so they could work on a poster simultaneously, side by side. Their work for the Avalon Ballroom swiftly became legendary. A combination of Art Nouveau elegance and grace with American pop-art sensibilities and stonededness made their posters the ideal depiction of the fabulous, innocent, dancing, laughing party that was San Francisco in the '60s.
It was far too good to last. Tourists flooded the Haight-Ashbury and the scene died of over-population. Mouse saw the writing on the wall, and it wasn't airbrushed; he split to London to paint flames on Eric Clapton's Rolls Royce – although the car was wrecked before he even arrived.
Back in San Francisco in the 1970s, he and Kelley resumed their work, creating dozens of iconic album covers, including the first eight of the Grateful Dead's releases. In the '80s, Mouse moved to Santa Fe, and studied plein air painting with the revered landscape artist Randall Stauss, now of Lake Tahoe. Fortunately for the Bay Area, he returned to live in Sonoma County a few years back, and continues to produce exquisite works.
He's been known to say that he's just an art cat who got lucky, who was in the right places at the right times, no biggie. Those who know his work would disagree. His work has helped define the visual fix of the past 50 years, and we are most fortunate to have him contribute to our visual stock.