Friday, June 20, 2014

The Modern Art in "Suits:" The Work of Heather Millar

Suits, one of my favorite cable TV dramas just came back on air for the summer. I can barely contain my excitement, but I'll try. I love Suits for a lot of reasons. It has sharp plots, smart characters, and incredible style. I aspire to be the wealthy, sophisticated lawyers of Pearson Hardman. It is a credit to both the actors and production designers for creating such a thoroughly sleek look throughout the show. I've said it before, but movies and television are both primarily visual materials: great dialogue and story can only go so far without a great look (or else, its either crappy audiovisual media or radio).
When I talk to my fellow Suits fanatics about the sophisticated look of the show, usually we are referring to the characters' incredible senses of style. I mean, have you ever seen Donna (Sarah Rafferty) or Jessica (Gina Torres) looking anything less than incredible? But, that same cosmopolitan, modern style that is so apparent in the costume design is mirrored in the set design. Granted, I know that the show is filmed on sound stages, but if my apartment looked anything like those sets, I'd make do with the three walls!
Because I am who I am, I became fascinated by the interior design of the show, especially in the office of Pearson Spector where most of the action takes place. In particular, I noticed two individual pieces that I felt must have some back story (or at least some documentation). The first appears in Rachel's (Meghan Markle) office and the second appears in Harvey's (Gabriel Macht) office. After a little research and a little help from some other blogs, I was able to find the answers (see sources).
Both paintings were painted by Heather Millar, a young Canadian artist whose style seems to be a mix of realism and surrealism (or an interesting combination of both styles). She graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 1998 (according to her own bio). She later moved to Toronto where she continues to work. This makes a lot of sense because Suits is shot in Toronto. When the set designers were looking for some original pieces, they would not have to go far in a big city such as Toronto. And indeed they did not. If I've found two Millar pieces in Suits, they are probably many more hanging in the various sets.
Listen Up (oil on canvas)
Heather Millar (2009)
The painting in Harvey's office originally reminded me of some of the art I've been seeing from some contemporary Chinese painters. I would call it contemporary surrealism. It appears to be a China doll sitting on some brightly colored... thing. As I already said, the painting is not Chinese, it is Canadian. Millar titled the 2009 piece Listen Closely, which I understand in terms of a lawyer's office but not exactly from the content. But no matter.

I've looked through a gallery of some of Millar's work (again, check out the sources), and it appears that she went through a period where she painted a lot of close ups of dolls. I'll be honest, most of them creep me out, but they are pretty interesting. I was reading an EW piece about the production design, and Macht claims that the paintings in Harvey's office refer to his sense of humor. I guess a painting of a toy does suggest something a little whimsical. But at the same time, its modernity keeps even the whimsical sleek and clean like Millar's paintings.
The second piece that attracted me is completely different, which is why I was surprised when I discovered that Millar also painted it. It's a painting of what appears to be a 1950s or 60s office girl carrying a package. It had a somewhat vintage, realist look to it, which made me assume it was adapted from a period piece. That may be the case and Millar may have been inspired by another piece of graphic design, but I have no evidence either way. In any case, the 2011 piece is titled The Gift.
The Gift (oil on canvas)
Heather Millar (2011)

I feel like this painting corresponds perfectly to the character of Rachel, who is classically lovely. At the same time, the men whispering in the background suggests Rachel's own insecurities in the prestigious law office. Perhaps more importantly, it is an essentially feminine piece that fits Rachel's personality and, most importantly, the classy look and color scheme of the room.

I'm really impressed by the range of Millar's work. Both pieces do represent a realist style, but they are so thematically different that they really speak to the variety of her work. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on her portfolio from now on- just as I'll be watching each new episode of Suits with anticipation. I'll keep marveling over that incredible production design and keep my eye out for some new interesting paintings.
If you would like to see any of my source material, please check the following sources below. I especially advise you to check out Millar's blog to really appreciate her work, past and present.

Heather Millar's Blog

Entertainment Weekly piece about Harvey Spector 
"Inside the man and office of Harvey Spector" by Mandi Bierly (2011)

To da loos (the blog that put me on the right track)


  1. Thank you! I was wondering who painted the artworks in Harvey's office :)

  2. Thank you! I was wondering who painted the artworks in Harvey's office :)

  3. Hey... just stumbled on this blog, and I would really like to know, who made the painting in this picture. Can anyone help? :-)

  4. And Season 6, bye bye duck painting

  5. Wow it's great Idea Canvas painting can help to make unique Interior Design for your Office...!!!

  6. Does anyone know what the paint color of the walls is?

  7. Does anyone know what the paint color of the walls is?

  8. In the painting 'Listen Closely', the doll is sitting on a vintage Gaylord Gator soap dish/tub toy produced by Avon in the 60s/70s. You can find images online, and they are occasionally for sale on etsy/eBay. It originally came in a box with a small bar of soap. My favourite soap dish.

  9. There's a painting of a vintage camera in Mike and Rachel apartment just wondering who painted that?


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