Letter to the Editor, Mills

Matt Olson’s recent column entitled “Abstract painting in fML does not suit location” expressed a set of judgments concerning a painting of mine displayed in the Fred Meyer Lounge. He went on to demand its immediate removal. Lacking research, the article didn’t identify me by name, much less the title of the work. Matt is of course entitled to his opinion, but as a columnist one would think facts and a more robust appreciation of art might inform and hopefully nuance his writing.

Shortly after the Fred Meyer Lounge was inaugurated under President Charles Walker, I was asked to provide a piece for the space over the mantle. I donated the piece in question. Other gifted works of mine on campus include the “Rampant Arch” canvas outside Ice Auditorium and murals in the Spanish classroom. As the legal property of Linfield College, all such work is shown as the administration sees fit.

The 1988 piece that apparently makes Matt cringe is entitled “Phaedrus,” inspired by a key Platonic dialog. In this particular work, I explored existential issues concerning the occasional sense of feeling alien vis-a-vis equally unknown, sometimes dark landscapes that are, nevertheless, the ground of our being. It is not a light theme, I agree, but the central abstract form is luminous and is, I contend, relevant and hopeful to students working their way into life and the larger world — provided they look and contemplate, rather than expect to be entertained lightly — very lightly — if the writer has his way.

I invite columnist Matt Olson to have coffee with me to discuss his reading of my work. Given his apparent sensitivity to art, I might also suggest that he take a course or two in Visual Culture, aesthetics and, oh yes, journalism.


Professor Ron Mills/Art and Visual Culture

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