Jax Mildner, owner of The Reverie // Photo by Molly Todd
By Molly Todd
Galleries can be a place to view art, but the owner of a new business and gallery in downtown Bellingham says what matters most is positively impacting the community and bringing people together.
Jax Mildner’s business, The Reverie, is located at the corner of Holly Street and Bay Street. The Reverie officially opened on Feb. 1 and celebrated its opening by being a part of Bellingham’s monthly Art Walk, which occured the same night.
Mildner commented on her past working environment and how she established her new business.
“I had a little tiny studio upstairs, and I’ve just been painting for fun and selling it to random people, whoever finds me,” Mildner said with a laugh. “This space was free in September, but it was a longshot. So when it finally happened, I was pretty excited.”
Mildner shares her gallery space with two other local artists in Bellingham, Elizabeth Ahlem Clark and Jacq Pahutski, she said. Ahlem Clark is a painter who uses abstract works on paper using locally foraged plants, earth and found materials processed into color, she said.
The series she’s currently working on is called Collecting Colorways, also the new name of her business, she said.
Ahlem Clark describes Mildner’s art as tasteful, classy and gilded elegance. The new gallery space works towards setting a collaborative and supportive atmosphere, Clark said.
“[That sort of atmosphere] is something that Bellingham likes, [and] the more spaces that you have that are founded on general kindness and inclusivity, is great,” Clark added.
Mildner hopes to create a new perspective of how galleries can be a part of the community, and her business will be a space where people can come together and interact with one another, she said. The gallery itself has an openness to it, with high ceilings and plants placed around the space to compliment Mildner’s tall canvas artwork.
Mildner grew up in Bellingham and moved around for dance, which was her passion before painting. Dance eventually led her to New York City for a time, she said.
“I’ve [always] loved art. But I grew up trained in professional ballet, so I didn't have time to really practice, paint, or do anything so all my time was consumed with dancing,” Mildner said. “I really fell in love with art there [in New York] and ended up quitting my dance contract. I left my contract there, moved back here and started painting.”
Mildner moved back to Bellingham from New York about four years ago to be closer to her family. The fast paced feeling of living in New York City made Mildner crave the Bellingham life again, she said.
Mildner’s inspiration and drive to make art is very clear to her, she said. Nature, specifically in Bellingham, is behind all of her work.
“All of my paintings are inspired by elements like water and earth. I love water, that’s the big one,” she said.
Mildner finished her latest piece, which stands several feet tall and took 20 hours to complete, during the last snowstorm in Bellingham, she said. The piece is on display next to her couch and coffee table in the gallery and includes color tones of gold, brown and white.
The piece was inspired by sunsets on the rocks, Mildner said.
“It’s that golden color, the golden hour,” she said. “I’ve been really into the neutral and earth tones this winter, and I think my color preferences change with the seasons.”
Mildner’s works have to be done in sections, she said, and when a painting is started, she is committed to 10 hours of continuous work at times.
“I don’t want to start on a painting unless I can finish it, so it does take a lot of planning in terms of scheduling,” she said. “You can’t just paint for a couple hours and come back to it later.”
Mildner uses acrylic paints for her works and makes them fluid, which is the process of mixing them with water, but said she does not use any other additives. She plays with the densities of the paints when layering them on top of each other, creating a chemical reaction, Mildner said.
“It’s fun because it’s like a science experiment in every painting,” she said. “I say it’s like a dance, we have to work together, because if I try to manipulate it too much, sometimes it won’t work out the way I want.”
All of Mildner’s artwork hung around the gallery is for sale to those who come in, she said. On Bellingham’s monthly Art Walk, she heavily discounts one piece so that people who are looking for art on a budget can enjoy it as well.
Mildner rarely keeps artwork for herself because she wants people to enjoy it and sharing with others is the connection she loves, she said.
“The process of creating [the piece] was the fun part for me,” Mildner said. “I love the finished product, but it’s that journey of the dance between me and the paint that I love.”
Mildner’s favorite piece she’s ever made was an eight-piece series that consisted of red and brown colors, she said.
“It was called Resilience,” she said. “The point of making it was that I was inspired by the women's march and the power and the energy of everybody there, [it] was so strong and so passionate.”
Mildner expressed the strong impact that the women’s march left on her.
“I left and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I have to make a painting’ and I immediately went to the studio,” she said.
The Reverie will be a part of the March Art Walk on March 1, and Mildner has also created a series of blue paintings that will be for sale at Aslan Brewing Company starting in March as well, she said. Fifteen percent of the sales in this series will go to the Washington CoastSavers Fund that helps pick up trash off the beaches, Mildner said.
Art for a cause is something that really inspires her, Mildner said.
“I’m a firm believer that art can bring people together,” she said. “I think that’s what our community needs, and that’s the point of this [gallery] -- to find a way to bridge the gap between art and different causes that need help.”
For more information on requesting commission pieces of Mildner’s work or information on requesting her gallery as an event space, check out her website at www.fineartjax.com.