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Cotton Miller, Art Institute of Boston

30, photography

Miller’s “MRI Sagittal View of the Artist's Brain.”
Cotton Miller.

Miller, a graduate of the Art Institute of Boston’s new photography Master of Fine Arts program, came to school with a readymade topic: He had recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. His images — photo-etchings made from his MRIs, a photograph and videos tracking his daily treatments, and more — search for meaning in his illness. As Christopher James, director of the MFA photography program, puts it, “he’s curating his disease.”

“The work is about perception, and how one deals with trauma, with a life-changing event,” Miller says. “I like the idea of the mind and the brain. The brain is physical, and the mind is subjective.”


The two meld in his art, in which a particular constellation of dots often appears. They first showed up on his MRIs. The tiny sparks of light denote sites where the immune system has corroded the synapses’ protective sheath. “It was serious when I saw it, but part of me was oddly attracted,” says Miller. “The lights were like stars. Horrifying and beautiful at the same time.”