Mills’, Shriver’s art served up at wine bar

Kelley Hungerford
Copy editor

Tucked behind Union Block Coffee on Davis Street is the quaint NW A Wine Bar. It may serve up fine Pinot Noir, but the bar is also currently hosting an exhibition of works by Department Chair and Professor of Art and Visual Culture Ron Mills.
Luke Zimmerman, adjunct professor of art and visual culture, is a friend of the bar’s management and helps coordinate its shows. When he discovered Mills’ paintings, he approached him and asked if he had any interest in presenting his art at the bar. The answer was a resounding yes. This is the gallery’s first major showing, Zimmerman said.
The 24 exhibited pieces are from 2001 to the present, painted mostly in the past two years, and five of them offer a little something extra: woodcarvings from a collaborative effort with Totem Shriver, adjunct professor of art and visual culture.
“I’ve enjoyed his work for many years, and he’s enjoyed mine, so it seems natural that we’d work together,” Shriver said.
The opening reception occurred Dec. 3, and the exhibit will run until the end of January.
“The buzz, I’ve been hearing, is that people liked the show,” Mills said.
First displayed in Milwaukie, Ore., last fall, the collaborative pieces consist of Mills’ paintings and Shriver’s carvings screwed together. Shriver said his additions are quite small compared to the size of Mills’ canvases, but even these small slices seems to change the art.
Mills said the works’ fabrication resulted from either first looking at the paintings or from initially looking at the wood. Sometimes, he said, no planning took place at all. They electronically cut and pasted some of the works together to see what the end result would be.
“We really liked what we saw,” Mills said.
The pieces were created as a result of each artist reacting to what the other previously produced.
“We don’t sit down and talk about this stuff,” he said. “He’s in his studio thinking certain things, and I’m in my studio thinking certain things.”
A philosophy Mills said he keeps in mind when painting is to approach the process not as a prior thought, but as an adventure.
In his artist statement, Mills describes how “the eye and mind group and sort, select and vivify one form of color over another; patterns interlace, light seemingly peeks around obstructions, positive becomes negative.”
This, he said, is Pareidolia, the way the mind picks and chooses what it wants to see.
“It’s a fancy word for the way, as a kid, you look into the clouds and see things,” Mills said.
Shriver said his favorite part of the collaboration is the unpredictability.
“There’s this unknown quality until you put the pieces together,” he said. “It’s a bit of a mystery.”
Based on the success of the partnership, both artists admit they would like to work together in the future.
Shriver said it’s hard for him to visualize the paintings and carvings separately now that they are together, and he enjoyed this collaboration, as he had never done one before.
“I think something about the almost magical ease of collaborating with someone that almost transcends the individual self-expression,” Mills said when asked to describe his favorite part of the process. “Collaboration is a marvelous way to get outside the limitations of your own head.”
The NW A Wine Bar is located at 326 NE Davis Street and opens at noon from Tuesday to Saturday. All ages are welcome to view the exhibition, but minors are asked not to sit at the bar. The Academic Advising office in Walker Hall is also home to one of their
collaborative creations.

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