Responsible Mormons -vs- The Antithesis of Art
(being responsibility)

7.21.14 | | 13 comments

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You average Mormon artist gets married younger than the average artist and starts having children sooner as well. (I don’t have stats to back that up, but anecdotal evidence justifies assuming this is as true of Mormon artists as of Mormons in general.) One significant downside to accepting adult responsibility immediately upon becoming an adult is that responsibility takes up a lot of time. Time that could be spent creating art. (I’m about a quarter through a novel dealing with that issue, actually. At times, it feels a little personal.)

One of my favorite contemporary painters (and, full disclosure, friend of mine), Denise Gasser is currently shopping to galleries art that deals directly with this conflict between being a Responsible Mormon and being an Artist. From her statement:

. . . a series, Interrupted, which comprises over 200 paintings (5”x7”) on panel. . . . I paint each piece until it is finished, or until I am interrupted. Often my stopping point is the moment I cannot possibly continue painting through the interruptions. At that point I stop working, and cannot revisit that piece. On the back of each painting I carefully document the start time, the end time, and the nature of the interruption that forced me to stop. The duration of each painting ranges wildly, from under two minutes to over two hours. These hundreds of small paintings, in varying levels of completion, come together as a rich tapestry that gives the viewer a glimpse into the fragmented creative process I experience as an artist/mother.

Going small is part of the impulse behind the Mormon Lit Blitz—anyone can fit in writing 1000 words!—and an important part of sticking with the art for probably all Responsible Mormons sticking with the art path.

Here are two snatches of Interrupted pulled from Denise’s Facebook page. Then tell me your thoughts on this project in the comments.

13 comments: “Responsible Mormons -vs- The Antithesis of Art
(being responsibility)

  1. Moriah Jovan

    Just those two pieces made me cry immediately from a truly visceral pain. I don’t think I could stand a whole exhibit of it.

  2. Mark Penny

    I can’t help thinking our lives are richer for the interruptions, as annoying as they may be. And a lot of our frustration with life comes from expectations that misrepresent reality.

  3. Moriah Jovan

    Well, as the old saying goes, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” One can always suck it up and deal, but at some point, the spirit will break, and after that …

    Forcing oneself to a) count one’s blessings and b) act happy and c) bury one’s joy is counterproductive for you AND the kids. All those little moments of subsuming oneself and her joy, all those moments of fakery (if one goes that route) add up to an unhappy collective.

    If an artist isn’t already a bit tetched in the head to begin with, she will be when she’s completely deprived of her joy and constantly told to appreciate all those little moments, with the implication being that she’s a Bad Mother and Wife for wanting to feed her own soul.

    Every moment can’t be indulged because children will take ALL of them. And a child who’s constantly indulged (happily or not) will be living in their parents’ basement when they’re 35.

  4. casey jex smith

    Heartbreaking work. I’m watching my wife go through this and she’s mostly just given up doing art for now. I think it’s a fabulous project. I hope someone will show it. Just a warning to mention her Mormon membership in any artist statement/proposal is the quickest way to get rejected.

  5. Mark Penny

    You’re right, Moriah: We all need space and time to be ourselves. But we also need to give up some of that space and time to be part of the groups we belong to–and to look after responsibilities. Moms, dads, kids, whoever–we all need to be left alone, but we all need to engage as well.

  6. Denise Gasser

    Wow, thank you Eric for posting this. And thank you for your comments. It’s nice to know that others are relating to this issue. It’s so complex to deal with two such vital roles, and try to do them both well…or at all. But I agree that the tension that exists between them can make us stronger, and make our experiences richer. I just did a blog post where I included my full artist statement for this project. I think it pretty well sums up my feelings about all of this. You can check it out here: http://denisegasserart.tumblr.com/

  7. Th.

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    Casey—

    You’ve had shows that were explicitly Mormon. I wonder if you could say a bit more about what you mean? If, you know, putting on the internet won’t make you a target.

  8. Th.

    .

    Oh: Also for Casey—-

    Tell your wife I love her work. I’ll patiently await the time she again has the time.

    ======= ======== ========

    Denise: When they’re displayed, how will viewers see the backs?

  9. casey jex smith

    I say that because I have had several relationships with good galleries dissolve after they found out that I still attend church. Just saying that the contemporary art world doesn’t want to validate a Mormon artist. And thanks for saying that about my wife. She’s a champ. I help her get time every chance I get. But a few hours here and there don’t make a successful studio practice.

  10. Denise Gasser

    I think I will probably just put a number next to each piece and have a large poster/wall decal that corresponds. I’ll just type out the time intervals and interruptions and display them there. I might also do a handout so people can roam around with it instead of having everybody crowd around one spot. As for the mormon thing, it’s not something we are focusing on in this show. Although my LDS background obviously influences the way I feel about motherhood, it’s a whole different issue that we aren’t planning to tackle. We are just focusing on the relationship between art and motherhood.

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