For some, it takes a while to find their paths. For others, like Colette Miller, the journey is set early on. The street artist and humanitarian has been a museum regular since she was a toddler. Miller and her siblings would paint at home, then be schooled by their art teacher mother, who clearly had no problem doing similar work off the clock. “We knew the difference between a Camille Pissarro and a Monet at age 4 or 5,” the Virginia native says. “I could walk through a museum and point to a painting and go, ‘That’s a Paul Cézanne.’”
“My parents always valued art,” she continues, recalling the times she’d show them school sketches. “That’s the foundation. When I was a child, I’d come home with my paintings and art and they’d give me praise. They instilled that pride in me.” It’s no wonder she blossomed into one of this era’s marquee creatives. Based in Los Angeles now, the products of her Global Wings Project are inescapable. If you haven’t taken a picture of yourself between a gorgeous pair here in Cali’ (not to mention Kenya, Australia, England, Japan, France, Cuba, Mexico, Dubai, and Taiwan), you’ve likely seen a friend taking off with them on your social media timeline.
When INDI was putting our wishlist of creative minds to collaborate with, Colette was at the top. Not only are her wings beautiful, but the messaging behind her art is just as poignant—lifting and unifying us all with the spirit of boundless hope.
INDI being an EV company, it was only right that we collab with someone who cares deeply about the people and world around them to create a special piece for us. Thankfully, she obliged. And now all visitors of our Beverly Hills showroom can take flight with a picture of her wings while seeing the INDI One.
We sat down with Colette for an interview. “I always wanted my paintings to be recognized,” she says. “I really put my soul and heart into them.” We can tell.
INDI: Was there ever a time where you looked to pursue a life away from art?
Miller: I went to Virginia Commonwealth University majoring in Oceanography. But I was really just socializing, being away from home for the first time. Boy crazy. I kept painting. To get away and find peace, I kept going to an art studio at night. It grounded me. So then I changed my major to Art. It helped me find myself.
You also were a musician for a bit, right?
In New York, I pursued music. I was in [metal rock band] Gwar for two years in the ’80s. It was more immediate.
What is it about art and painting specifically that always brought you back?
When I paint, it’s a lot of listening to yourself and being honest. A type of sound that is peaceful. I always reach a certain amount of love or peace before I let it go. But sometimes I don’t get there. Art teaches you to listen to yourself.
As an artist, it seems like you aim to fulfill your own needs, but also make things that people like. How do you toe that line?
When you’re trying to please people, that puts you outside of what’s your true channel. You’re a unique snowflake on this earth. Bosses do that. My niece used to say, “You’re not the boss!” I always thought that that was so smart. No one is your boss.
You’re so well known for your wings. Are there any other subjects you enjoy painting that we don’t see as much?
Big cats and flowers. Animals. I still do all that.
How did the wings become your main thing? What was your ah-ha moment?
Angel wings are so soft and light. My ah-ha moment was when I was meditating a lot and doing yoga in 2011. Driving in LA. I just started envisioning and imaging angel wings and the divine in humanity everywhere. I acted on that. I thought it’d be great. I made them human size so people could interact with them. It wasn’t out there when I started. This was in 2012.
I just did it. I didn’t expect anything. I was just being true to my voice. I put them up at night. I felt proud and happy. I didn’t think people would get it. I actually put them up anonymously. Like I was gifting it. Without ego or expectation. It was a real thrill. Downtown LA, right across from the American Hotel.
What’s more fulfilling for you: Completing a piece of art that fully realized your vision for it? Or the reaction it gets from viewers?
I prefer engagement with the world. When I feel satisfied with the art alone. Yes, there’s a sense of accomplishment. But it’s better in the world.
I’m sure you’re constantly being messaged with letters from folks who see your pieces. What are some of the best notes you’ve gotten from fans?
There are a few that are very special. There was a girl who was shot at a high school. She took a picture with my wings on Melrose, the pink wings, a few days before she passed. It was one of her last photos. Her family reached out to me to say that. Stuff like that is sad but special.
My favorite wings are the ones that are in areas where the people are the most fragile and wounded. Those are very rewarding. You’re hitting a note you didn’t even see.
For the wings you did for INDI, what was your inspiration?
The colors are based on the beautiful shades of humanity. The palette came during the riots from 2020 and all of the confusion. I wanted to celebrate all of the colors of our beings. I started to work with the palette.
“Humankind” is such a beautiful term. The kind in humanity. If you’re going to be one thing on this Earth, try to be kind. Maybe I’m a hypocrite sometimes. I can be horrible. But if you put that first, it’s a great step.
Swing by our Beverly Hills showroom to check out the INDI One and Colette’s new wings now.
Interview by Brad Weté
Video and Photos by Michael Dispenza