Growing up on Oregon’s wild Rogue River, Meredith Miller, credits her mother for setting her on the path of the artist.
“Forty acres of primary forest stretching from Crater Lake to the Pacific Ocean, that was my playground. My mom gave me the gift of wonderment in that enchanted place. I had an idyllic childhood,” Meredith muses. “Living ‘off the grid,’ we made our own entertainment. Mom would secretly set up fairy rings for me to find in our daily wanderings, made of feathers and stones and all sorts of magic stuff. I even had a pet deer,” she recalls with a smile.
When her parents divorced, Meredith and her mother moved to suburban LA, to live with an aunt and uncle, both artists. “Everything happens for a reason,” says Meredith. “We came from living on National Forest land to a bare dirt yard. I’d brought one lone jade plant with me. But, had we not left, I’d probably still be there, married to a Rogue Indian raising a tribe of little hellions of my own,” she laughs.
Her uncle was in charge of murals at Disney Studios; from him she learned watercolors. Her aunt painted, and would take her to workshops in downtown artists’ lofts where she learned to draw live models. “So many artists, many of them already famous and successful, offered me encouragement,” she recalls.
Mom had a beau who left her a small inheritance when he passed, but with one stipulation. The money was to be used for her to go to art school. Meredith was sixteen when she enrolled at the Art Center College of Design. She went for four years, studying to be a magazine illustrator, but just before graduation, she ran off to Florida with a wild and crazy boy. “Pirate Jim” promised Meredith a life of romance and adventure sailing around the world. Instead, he got in trouble and went to jail leaving Meredith broke and alone, stranded in a strange place with no one to turn to. “I couldn’t go back to CA for the shame of it all. I had no money, just my portfolio. There was a famous art show in Coconut Grove, Miami, one that drew international talent. I didn’t have the fifteen bucks to enter it so I hung my paintings with clothespins in the parking lot, and by the end of the day I’d sold everything. Now I had $500. I thought that was pretty cool, so I got busy and painted some more, and entered the next show. They gave me the last space in the last row, but I sold out again, and won Best-of-Show. And now I had a thousand bucks! Ten years later I was successful. I had a beautiful home in Coconut Grove. I had a following and a famous salon, and was married to a great guy. I had fifteen wonderful years in Florida before moving on.”
“I guess I’ve always followed my nose wherever it leads me,” Meredith affirms. “With luck and pluck, and good angels and loving friends I’ve always landed on my feet. Somehow Brian and I found each other in the midst of all the chaos, and together we found this place. And it just keeps on happening.”
Meredith’s art is an integral part of Montesueños Retreat Center BnB's form and fibre. Her eye and aesthetic informs every corner and inch of it. Her world is a living studio, her art attractively priced and offered for sale on-site. “My work hangs around the world, in galleries and private collection. Much of it commissioned.” With the aid of many artisans working in multiple disciplines, from fabulous mosaic tile work to otherworldly landscaping, this magical place continues to evolve. “I get an idea, and somehow the right person appears to help me realize it,” she says. “People invariably make mention of the ‘Gaudi-esque’ nature of Montesueños’ structures. The funny thing is, I had no idea who Gaudi was. It wasn’t until years later that Brian and I made a trip to Barcelona that I discovered our uncanny shared vision. Gaudi is the brother I never met.”
Dr. Brian O’Leary was an Apollo Astronaut who was handpicked to lead the first manned mission to Mars. Unfortunately, NASA lost the funding for the project due to a little thing called the Vietnam War, and the mission was shelved.
Brian’s talents were many. As well as co-founding Montesueños, with wife, Meredith Miller, he was an internationally acclaimed speaker, scientist, author, and environmental/new energy activist. He served as Director of Ecuadoran Affairs for the UN-affiliated Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Organization. He advised the Ecuadoran government on clean energy and helped formulate strategies designed to save the Amazon rainforest from oil and metals extraction.
Dr. O’Leary was also a keen photographer and jazz pianist. Samples of his work abound throughout Montesueños.
Brian transitioned to ‘free energy’ on July 29th, 2011. His dream of creating a teaching center for the arts and humanities continues to live on. He is missed, loved, and remains an integral part of Montesueños.
Below is a video Brian made of MonteSueños in 2010.