Ralph R. Miller (1905 - 1984) was born deaf to hearing parents who placed him in the Illinois School for the Deaf at the age of 5. There he began to develop his artistic talents, although he did not have the unqualified support of his teachers. When the time came for him to choose a vocation, and he said that he wanted to become an artist, his then teacher stared at him and advised him to abandon the idea. "No. There is no future in art. It's better that you learn carpentry as your vocation."
Nevertheless, Ralph, being a determined person, continued drawing and painting. After graduation from the school for the Deaf in 1925, he went immediately to Chicago, where he briefly attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Compelled to leave school and become self-supporting, he began work as a sign painter, then an illustrator, and finally a graphic artist. He remained in this career for the next 60 years. Unfortunately, he had only a few exhibits of his work which included Charter Day Exhibits at Gallaudet University during the early seventies, and at Spectrum: Focus on Deaf Artists Arts Festival in Austin, Texas in 1977 and 1979. During his last 15 years, he was a freelance illustrator, working at Gallaudet University on children's books of Signed English, and related topics.
Statement on Behalf of the Artist
After seeing the works of his daughter, Betty G. Miller, on Deaf experiences, he started creating his own work which depicted humor, culture and tragedy in the Deaf world during the late seventies and early eighties. An example of this work in the current exhibit is "The Deaf Picnic, Austin, Texas" which includes 24 signs in the scene. Betty G. Miller said of Ralph that "his Deaf mentor and coach, Robey Burns, encouraged him to pursue his talent, making him determined, and established a philosophy to do what he was destined to do despite his deafness. He was a typical gentleman, who was always willing to support and provide services as an artist to many organizations including the Deaf Clubs, AAAD, and NAD.