Defying convention

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Of Linfield’s many distinguished faculty, Cris Moss, adjunct professor of art and visual culture and Miller Fine Arts Gallery director, brings diverse experience to Linfield.

Since Moss took the job in fall 2004, the art department has gained more recognition.
“It has become a hot spot,” Moss said. “The gallery has a name, which is great for the school and department.”

However, Moss’ education experience and background are perhaps the greatest assets to Linfield art students.

With a dislike for the conventional high school system, Moss left his home in Montana at age 15. He moved to Seattle where he lived on the streets for one year. Moss eventually enrolled in Nova, an alternative high school in Seattle, where grades and requirements were not included as part of the curriculum.

“I was sort of a young anarchist,” Moss said. “I refused to take standardized tests. By the time I graduated from Nova, I had no GPA and no standardized test scores.”

After Moss graduated, he returned to Montana to enroll as a non-degree seeking student at the University of Montana in Missoula. After earning enough credits, he was considered a student in the art program. He even became a national scholar, representing the art department for the university.

After a short while, Moss left the University of Montana. He attended Pratt Art School in Seattle, followed by the University of Minnesota, where he became involved in professional snowboarding.

Following his passion for the slopes, Moss returned to Oregon, where he practically lived on Mount Hood to snowboard. Shortly after, he rediscovered his love of art. Moss then enrolled at the Pont a Vin, a prestigious school of fine art in northern France.

Once he finished there, he headed back to the Northwest to enroll at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. He was eventually allowed to manage its gallery.

Using his experience with running PNAC gallery, Moss returned to Portland to run his own at age 25.

“Usually after finishing school, artists try to showcase their work in different galleries,” Moss said. “I, however, took the unconventional approach to open my own gallery.”

The Donut Shop gallery rents spaces in old buildings in downtown Portland that can be used temporarily.

“It was about using the space to showcase the exhibition,” Moss said.

He said he was able to use connections he made from all of his previous education to convince well-known artists from around the world to showcase their work in the Donut Shop. In making a name for the gallery, Moss did not officially claim ownership, but used it to display his own work. As a result, Moss also distinguished himself as an artist.

Wanting to complete his education, Moss then applied for an exclusive art thesis program at New York University. He was one of only eight students accepted.

At NYU, he worked under well-known video artist Peter Campus and famous film artist Dara Birnbaum to help in her transition from film to digital work.

Moss was asked to run the NYU art gallery, which he did while showing his own work in the Czech Republic, Italy and France, as well as in distinguished art galleries in the United States.

Moss earned his master’s degree in fine arts from NYU to become a liaison at the gallery of the Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art in Manhattan, where he was again able to work with famous artists.

Following the death of his father, Moss decided to move back to Portland to be close to his family. The move also brought him back to the first gallery he opened.

“I want to return the Donut Shop gallery back to its roots,” Moss said. “I feel it has too much sponsorship and is going the way of all art studios.”

In many ways, Moss was returning to his artistic roots in Portland, but was also excited to begin a career in teaching with the opportunity to head the Linfield art gallery.

“My first time teaching was on this campus,” Moss said. “The space in our gallery is great, and there is a great group of people to work with here.”

He continues to be on the board of directors at many of the schools he attended and is still involved with the Donut Shop in Portland.

“Teaching has been really fun for me,” Moss said. “I know I bring a lot of first-hand knowledge of contemporary art to students here. I think it’s also refreshing to students to see that you don’t have to pursue a conventional path.”Cris Moss