Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (+ Incarceration and Murder) State Ranking, 2017, acrylic and graphite on collage laid down on board, 78 x 141 inches

Walking through one of Lewiston, Maine’s old mill buildings on the outskirts of downtown, you pass an art therapy classroom, a furniture refurbisher, and a sound engineer. The dominating feature of the building, though, is the L-shaped art studio of Dan Mills.

Mills, who prefers the “L” because it gives him additional wall space to work, is a researcher, historian, and cartographer, a data visualizer and an artist, and the director of the Bates College Museum of Art. Mills has an uncanny ability to collect and transform data into affecting artwork. He is a curious artist who is unsure what he will learn as he makes his art, where sometimes the learning is from the process and other times from the end result.

Mills, who can’t remember whether he was asleep in history class or whether the classes just omitted much of history, is a wealth of piercing information: 31 states are named after indigenous words, one in 113 people worldwide are displaced from their homes, one in five Syrians are refugees, Maine is the state with the smallest number of incarcerated people per capita in America yet is only the median for this statistic among countries worldwide, and New Hampshire is considered the “most free” state. (Mills notes that different sources give different statistics, but that he eventually just has to go with a figure as best he can ascertain.)