Collaborative display blends church and art

Totem Shriver, adjunct professor of 3D Design, wants you to have an experience.

“The Church of Totem” exhibit is now open in the Linfield Gallery, featuring new woodcarvings, photographs, paintings and three-dimensional works all addressing the same question: What would I want in my church?

Considering the connotation of the words “church” and “totem,” the title itself is somewhat contradictory, but not without reason.

“Contradictions are big in my art, and I think in everybody’s thinking,” Shriver said.

Contrast makes an appearance in his style as well as an unlikely combination of indigenous patterns and bold, geometric shapes intermingle in many of his pieces.

It is essentially an indefinable style.

“There’s a sense of mystery…I think that’s a positive thing,” he said.

That obscurity is
exactly what Shriver was aiming for, not only because it allows for individual interpretation, but it also inspires conversation.

“I’m trying to get people to open up discussion,” Shriver said, patting the timeworn couch he sits on.

In fact, there are two couches that face each other, right in the center of the gallery.

“I wanted a place for people to relax around the art,” he adds.

Typically, the word “exhibit” evokes a somewhat stiff setting, where art is guarded by cold, glass cases.

Shriver has achieved a different tone with his showcase.

One can sit and become part of the exhibit.

The gallery is anything but quiet on Friday evenings.

From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Shriver invites the public to attend his “meetings” to share creatively.

The Friday evening events include a large range of possibilities, all depending on what the participants would like to do.

Musical and theatrical performances, discussions of art in life, singing, rituals, even yoga, are all potential outcomes of Shriver’s creative gatherings.

Friend and fellow artist, Tom Alfsen, joined the Feb. 17 meeting to play music and appreciate the art.

Alfsen said that he wouldn’t put anything on the walls of his hypothetical church.

“My church ain’t got no walls,” Alfsen said.

Various students and members of the community took part in the exhibit’s successful opening night on Feb. 10.

One of the participants, Sophomore Colton Wright was able to bring his own ritual to the event when Shriver invited him to share his hidden talent.

Colton is a “traceur,” a French term used to tag practitioners of Parkour—a training method focused on maneuvering around urban environments.

“Parkour has become my church,” Wright said.

Previous experience with art training is not necessary to enjoy the exhibit,

“Art is in everything… it helps you to think
creatively, regardless of your discipline,” Shriver said.

All he asks viewers to have with them when they arrive are their beliefs and the openness to discover new ones.

Shriver would like to open the exhibit to professors and students for class discussions or other gatherings. The exhibit will run through March 17.

He can be reached by email at

The Linfield Art Gallery is located in the James F. Miller Fine Arts Center.

Chrissy Shane/
Staff writer
Chrissy Shane can be reached at

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