Ambiguous Altars: The Art of Jeff McMillan

Brotherhood of Life

Jeff McMillanRecently the Collective has been abuzz about the art of LA-based painter Jeff McMillan, the Sriracha-loving arachnophobe who is, according to our sources, “probably in the top 10 of home pizza makers in all the world.” Capable of not running for months and then busting out 8 miles no problem, Jeff also uses a minimum of 23 ingredients in his salads and painted a Paris street scene mural in Justin Timberlake’s bathroom. Last week Jesús Ibáñez had the opportunity to pick his brain and ask him all the important questions:

Jesús Ibáñez: So what’s the weirdest thing you ever put Sriracha on? And did you have any regrets.

Jeff McMillan: Oh man, I came home drunk one night and found some kale that was sitting in a pan for a day or two. Made a kale sandwich with melted cheese on it and covered it with Sriracha. I got sick about an hour later. Major regrets the whole next day, didn’t leave the house.

Jesús Ibáñez: Well-played! I put it on a hardboiled egg the other day. And in my lentil soup. And in a bowl with rice, edamame, cheese and sardines. No regrets.

Jeff McMillan: Dude, that sounds amazing. I’m a culinary daredevil, I love creating new dishes.

Jesús Ibáñez: Your salad and pizza prowess precede you.

Jeff McMillan: Oh, I saw salad on a pizza in NY, I should have tried it.

Jeff-McMillan1024Jesús Ibáñez:  So you narrowed down your next vacation destination to either Scotland or Pakistan. Those as two finalists in the same category are an interesting match. Explain yourself.

Jeff McMillan: Let’s do Scotland, I hear Pakistan’s scotch isn’t as good

Jesús Ibáñez: My thoughts exactly. Speaking of Scotch, what’s your drink of choice?

Jeff McMillan: I like Manhattans. Strong. Gets the job done fast in one drink. I’m getting into scotch though. I tried some 12 year Lagavulin scotch

Jesús Ibáñez: I love scotch. The peatier the better. Would you consider painting your primary artistic outlet? Do you create other things as well?

Jeff McMillan: Yeah, I think and painting and drawing are my outlets. I listen to a lot of music and read about it. That’s a major outlet as well. That and creating new food masterpieces.

JM Alan-Deer-AssJesús Ibáñez: Perfect intro to my next question: music. I’m bugging your house so I’m listening to what you’re listening to right now: Requiem for the Static King Part 2. What do you listen to? And what is this stuff? My informants tell me you’re into ambient music – a genre that has always seemed somewhat indefinable to me. Whenever I check out “ambient” music I never know what I’ll get: could be Brian Eno, could be groovy electronica, could be synthesized Andean pan flutes. How do you define it? What do you listen to? This is cool.

Jeff McMillan: Oh man, I’m kind of a nerd with that stuff. If I like something, I’ll listen to it constantly until I wear it out. But, the stuff that keeps getting better for me is ambient music. The Static King part is a track from A winged Victory for the Sullen, a side project from a duo called Stars of the Lid, an Ambient super group. It’s really quiet but super drone, I think I like it because it allows me to think and it can mean something different to me every time I listen to it. Listening to a lot Brian Eno lately too.

Jesús Ibáñez: My homie Diego El Moro loves drone music, he gets big into Indian sitars and Asian bamboo flutes. Drone is a big part of the bagpipes as well, which I get really into. Just a lone bagpipe though, no monster bagpipe bands. A lone piper staring into the void, that’s what I’m talking about.

JM Greedo Loves HanJeff McMillan: Oh yeah, that stuff is amazing. I remember as a kid I’d listen to the Beatles song Within You Without You. None of my friends liked that song. But for some reason that interested me more than pop stuff. I feel like you have to work for it more, rather than just being given a nice pop song on a plate. That’s why it has to be Scotland.

Jesús Ibáñez: It’s a no-brainer.

Jeff McMillan: Another thing Pakistan doesn’t have

Jesús Ibáñez: Any other music that plays or played a big part of your consciousness?

Jeff McMillan: Lately it’s been ambient or talk radio. There’s this guy named Mac Demarco, he’s pretty good and totally out there. He kind of reminds me of early Ween.

Jesús Ibáñez: So when you read about music what are you reading?

Jeff McMillan: Just their history and discography, what are the essentials to check out. Who’s in the band, when they came from (band wise) and where they’re going or why they left. I realized there’s much out there that just gets glazed over. I don’t have anything against pop music. I just find it so ordinary.

JM birdsfly1Jesús Ibáñez: Dude Saudade Brothers are into it 100%. Disko’s a huge music nerd.

Jeff McMillan: Yeah, me too. I’m kind of Like Jack Black’s character on High Fidelity, just not a butthole.

Jesús Ibáñez: So when you paint you put on the tunes or the talk radio and just have at it? Do you have it all mapped out in your head already or is there spontaneity involved?

Jeff McMillan: Yeah, usually. I find something on This American Life or Radiolab, then move to ambient. Every once in a while an audio book.

Jesús Ibáñez: Saudade Brothers has a whole cyclopic skull thing going on – Diego made up a religion and the avatar is the cyclopic skull. The whole Komuso Collective is down with it and we all have it tattooed on us in one way or another. I noticed the painting with the huge one over the desk – “Brotherhood of Life” – why’d you go Cyclops there?

Jeff McMillan: Awesome, that was a commission I did back in 2007. I painted a couple Cyclops skulls. That’s great! A religion? What’s it all about it?

Jesús Ibáñez: It’s basically the anti-dogma dogma. In order to be a part of it you have to destroy yourself. On one super obvious level it’s about the idiocy and hypocrisy of religion in the first place, on another level it’s actually a pretty straightforward Zen concept. But all shrouded in big bold sweeping Communist-style rhetoric. (Click here for the official site of the religion)

JM bertum-lambda-final--720x1024Jeff McMillan: Holy crap, that’s awesome!

Jesús Ibáñez: It hasn’t been added to or changed at all in like 15 years, but we’re coming up on a new phase, because the manifesto has found by archaeologists in several different languages on scattered isolated islands around the world like chiseled into turtle shells and on cave paintings and shit. But all in way out isolated places, from all over the world. Fragment type stuff like when they find a scrap of a dead sea scroll and it says the same words as a scrap of papyrus from like 3000 years earlier. So we’re going to publish the findings soon. Because of getting to know Disko I have a thing for isolated islands now too.

Jeff McMillan: That’d make for a cool series of paintings. So this religion has been on the Collective’s mind for a while now.

Jesús Ibáñez: Yeah, it’s basically about the shortsightedness and futility of dogma, dogmas in general. Diego went down that road, lived in the Middle East for a while and came back reporting that it’s a nowhere road.

Wisdom of the Ancients L
Wisdom of the Ancients (Left)

Jeff McMillan: Yeah, organized religion freaks me out. I went to a Catholic grade and high school. Messed me up. Makes sense to make up your own religion and live by. You’ll be better off.

Jesús Ibáñez: Do you think that is where the emphasis on symbols and idols in your painting comes from? Because that’s something I really love about it.

Jeff McMillan: I think that’s part of it. Thanks man! I love secret societies and clubs. I love insignias and patches and secret codes.

Jesús Ibáñez: They’re like altars or shrines to something unspoken, maybe unspeakable, like with your quasi Arabic lettering in there to boot, words that just say there’s more to say.

JM Wisdom of the Ancients C
Wisdom of the Ancients (Center)

Jeff McMillan: Yeah, totally. That’s what I like about all that stuff. Altars is a great word. People always ask me what it means. It doesn’t mean anything. They’re just letters organized to look cool. So, I like that it could mean something to somebody and something different to another. I just picked up a book called Arabic Graffiti, it’s amazing!

Jesús Ibáñez: My graffiti is all over the place here in Vigo. Is the book on Arabic graffiti or is it a clever title actually about something else? Fiction or nonfiction for you, by the way?

Jeff McMillan: Yeah, it’s pictures of graffiti from all over the place. Nonfiction! Well, it depends. I’m more of an article reader and news junkie.


JM Wisdom of the Ancients R
Wisdom of the Ancients (Right)

Jesús Ibáñez: Me too. Do you tell jokes?

Jeff McMillan: Yeah, sometimes. Do you? I haven’t heard any good ones lately

Jesús Ibáñez: No I suck. I can never remember them. I’m the worst.

Jeff McMillan: I can’t tell them, I always mess them up.

Jesús Ibáñez: Is it weird to sit around and watch youtube videos of atomic bomb blasts? Not every day. Just last night.

Jeff McMillan: No way, it’s amazing that those videos exist and are available to watch. Just a watched a video of Evel Knievel breaking all bones at Caesar’s Palace.

Jesús Ibáñez: Good. Thanks for that. OK last question: my west coast operatives inform me about a killer piece you’re working on: a complete invented sport with a full rule set, players, mascot, etc. I’m told it’s a mix between Jai Alai, soccer, and rugby. I fucking love the idea. What am I allowed to say about it, if anything.

Jeff McMillanJeff McMillan: Ha, thanks man! It’s fun, I can’t wait to start working on it. Yeah, here’s the splash page: We should get you in on the team painting.

Jesús Ibáñez: Dude that would be awesome – as long as I’m wearing an eye patch and have a gold tooth. How top secret is this?  And can I put the splash page in the post?

Jeff McMillan: Sure, the world needs to know about Prigus, haha!

Jesús Ibáñez: They do for sure! Cool man, well thanks for your time – I gotta run.

Jeff McMillan: Yeah man, for sure. Good talking to you. Thanks for your time!

Jeff McMillan will be curating the MSTR X WRKS show at the Long Beach Museum of Art for 2014. Check out more of his killer art on website,



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