The “No Show” Show

Art disappearance leaves class confused, mystery remains unsolved

The “No Show” Show –  a single stool, where the collages had last been seen, alongside a note explaining the blank walls (Camille Lubach)

The “No Show” Show – a single stool, where the collages had last been seen, alongside a note explaining the blank walls (Camille Lubach)

Nearly two months ago, on Sept. 16, 2022, 14 pieces of student work mysteriously disappeared from the Lou Gallery, located in Linfield University’s Miller Fine Arts Center. The mystery is still unsolved.

Totem Shriver, art professor and shop manager, had neatly stacked his student’s collages in the gallery with the intention of displaying them the following week. When Shriver returned on Monday morning, the collages were gone. 

“I asked everybody that works here, nobody had any clue, including students. Or nobody at least admits to knowing anything about it,” Shriver said. 

This was the first project completed by Shriver’s ARTS101 class. The assignment consisted of creating 16” x 20” abstract collages made of magazine clippings and other paper. As a whole, the class spent three weeks and nearly 150 to 200 hours collectively on creating these pieces. 

The note that explains the show–or lack thereof. (Camille Lubach)

“I worked really hard on [making] my collage. I spent a lot of hours in the art building in the middle of the night collaging,” said Riley Omonaka, Linfield junior and current class member. 

“I was really proud of the work and was looking forward to having a show. But then there was no show. The show that could have been – TheNo Show’ Show, as I call it,” Shriver said. 

According to Shriver, he cannot recall any student artwork ever being taken from the art building before and he’s “worked here a long time.” Due to a lack of air conditioning and for air flow, the doors of the art building are left open quite often. This means that anyone, student or not, could’ve wander into the art building. Students have access to the art building throughout the day and current art class members have access 24/7. 

“It was a bunch of ripped up and cut up paper but it was very neatly stacked in the gallery. It doesn’t make sense to me that someone would come through this entire building and zero in on one stack and walk away with it,” Shriver said. 

It is this type of questioning that makes the disappearance even more mysterious. 

“Who would want 14 collages?” Omonaka questioned. 

Omonaka shared a photo of her project, titled “An Exercise in Letting Go,” which she had taken before its disappearance. Image courtesy of Riley Omonaka.

Why take the collages but nothing else from the art building? Why take them all and not just the one they liked best?

“For me it boils down to three [scenarios] – one, someone who just wanted to maliciously steal something. Two, a janitor threw it away mistakenly. Or three, someone who doesn’t like me maybe,” Shriver said. “Everything that I want to pin it on, I just can’t pin it on, because I just don’t know all the information. It seems strange that a janitor would do that, or a student, or just in general that someone would take those.” 

The ARTS101 class had mixed reactions to the theft. Most students seemed unfazed, while others shared in Shriver’s confusion. For students like Linfield junior, JJ Anderson, he “wasn’t very emotionally attached” to his assignment.

“I don’t know what I would have done with it, I would have probably just given it to my mom,” Anderson said. 

Anderson shared an image of “The Thumb of Fire,” which he took before its disappearance. Image courtesy of JJ Anderson.

Shriver believes this is the brightside to the whole situation. Of course, having the physical artwork is always ideal, but his students still got to experience the process and techniques that went into creating these collages. They only lost the physical thing. 

“It was a good first exercise for sure. It was a nice balance between trying different mediums and spending a lot of time on something, it was a good warm up,” Omonaka said. 

“As an artist, you make stuff and it goes away. You just got to let things go, that’s the underlying lesson,” Shriver said. “[Ron] Mills, who used to teach here, used to always say ‘don’t fall in love with your work. If you are falling in love with your work you’re never gonna get any better.’” 

If you have any information about the whereabouts of these collages, please contact Totem Shriver at [email protected].