Elli Milan

Queen Creek


Woman and man in painting studio.

Elli and John Milan. Photo by Paul Markow

As a working, contemporary artist, art is not what I do, but who I am. To me, art is like oxygen and I couldn't imagine life without it. Art is an essential source of self-fulfillment and challenge, and a means of experiencing life in all its many forms.

What is my purpose as an artist? Why do I paint every day, passionately reaching forth into the unseen realm? My fascination with contemporary buildings, built around old ruins and the visible layers of history, have become a metaphor for the way I see spiritual transformation in myself and the people around me: my family, my friends, my neighborhood, and my community. Like these ancient cities, our lives are complex; as we grow and progress, the new slowly replaces the old, yet we are often nostalgic for our old self, rather than looking forward with great expectation to our destiny.

I met my husband and creative partner, John, in Hawaii while I was still in high school and John was “beach bumming.” Deciding early on to make careers as artists, we enrolled at Savannah College of Art and Design and later transferred to the University of Georgia where we received our BFAs in painting. It was in this small and vital city that we developed our personal styles and began showing our work in local galleries. After graduation we worked independently, but began dreaming about working collaboratively.

Today we create our paintings together. This collaboration brings out a side of our work that neither of us could reach by ourselves. Our process combines aggressive and spontaneous layers of paint, which create a bright and playful scenario that is interwoven with hints of symbolic narrative.

In 2010, we established the Milan Art Institute. Our mission is to support and advance artistic endeavors that are innovative, contemporary, visionary, and inspired. We do this through art classes and education programs for youth and adults, outreach and engagement with our local community in Queen Creek, Arizona, unique art products, and international cultural exchanges for emerging artists.

Last year, we held 156 classes and programs serving the needs of more than 2100 students.

Our goal is for the Milan Art Institute to be a destination and a place of artistic discovery where visual art techniques merge the classical and the cutting edge, and where artists young and old can foster creative connections and build professional relationships.

Our vision is to enlighten and educate a worldwide audience about the transformational and uplifting power of the visual arts. By shining our art, we can change lives, and in the process, change the world.

John & Elli Milan discuss their work together. Video courtesy of the Milan Art Institute.