By Elizabeth Stephens
“Tupos” can be translated from Greek to mean impression or form, which is an apt word for the expressive style of Patricia Mills, resident painter at Old Town Fair Oaks' newest art gallery. At Studio Tupos one can view some of Mills’s artwork from several recent series, as well as purchase prints, cards and paintings.
Pat’s love for art spans a lifetime. As a child growing up in Kansas Pat drew interiors of houses; she experimented with watercolors and went on to pursue art as an undergrad at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. However, it wasn't until 2000 when her children were all grown that Mills decided to make it a profession. She started attending graduate school at Sacramento State, where at the time CSUS had the Over-60 program and you could attend for only one dollar a semester. Later she would spend a month painting in France fine tuning her creative voice.
Pat draws inspiration from a variety of sources, and strives to pay respect to the subjects of her art. Some of the biggest pieces currently on display at Studio Tupos are part of a series of paintings called Catching Shadows based on the photography of Edward Curtis, famous for his black and white portraits of native people at the turn of the century. Curtis touched Mills with his photography. “[It was] the starkness of it. And the sadness of their images,” she says when asked what drew her to these pictures in particular. It is her hope that these paintings will give the subjects in the images a new life, and an opportunity for audiences to see them in a different way.
No doubt many would agree she has achieved this goal. The face of a Mojave girl greets visitors entering the gallery, inviting them to come in and learn more about her story through the painting. The Mojave girl in particular was an emotional challenge for Pat. “This girl was about 15 when her photo was taken. And I was painting her and painting her and she was staring at me and I was staring at her and I just broke into tears. I called [my husband] Bill and I said, ‘I can not do this.’ She was staring me down.”
Also on display are a pair of paintings depicting the damage done by Irma and Harvey, two of the hurricanes that hit the United States and the Caribbean earlier this year. Ever upbeat and positive in message, Patricia felt compelled however to depict these images in response because “that’s all that was left.”
Mills uses acrylics for much of her paintings. However, she doesn’t restrict herself when it comes to art, and uses a variety of mediums in order to achieve the effect she desires. These have included house paint, enamel paint, and tea. She has even used a tie dying method with canvas. Currently, Pat is preparing for a new series of maps of imagined places, and plans to age them by burning, scratching, and rubbing dirt into them.
“I’m curious to see what my maps are going to be like,” she says with excitement.
Pat’s paintings have gained attention near and far. One of her paintings, “Horizon of the Future”, won an Award of Excellence at the California State Fair. This painting is also based on an Edward Curtis photograph, which is entitled “Vanishing Race.” Pat decided to change the title to one that suggests a much more hopeful future. Another painting of hers called “Torch of Memory”, which is of her husband winning the gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, hangs on permanent display at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. "I Am Your Chief" is a large work done in collaboration with Michael Rowden de Portola and won the Juror's Award at the California State Fair in Sacramento. It was purchased for the University of Nevada, Reno Graduate Center.
Studio Tupos is open three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 11am-4pm or by appointment. Pat will most likely be painting in the back with the help of assistant Christine Louen assisting in the front of the gallery. In the future Pat hopes to host a variety of events, including holiday events and watercolor painting classes. Upcoming is a wine tasting this December 2nd immediately following the Christmas in the Village festivities in Old Town Fair Oaks! Come kick off the holiday season at Studio Tupos!