Art & Belief

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Part I: Whoops.

Somehow I failed to post this earlier this week. I hope you weren’t coming anyway.

Nathan Florence has directed a new documentary, Art & Belief, about a handful of artists including Trevor Southey and Dennis Smith, who believed not only that Mormonism and fine art were compatible, but that together they could change the world.

The Bay Area Mormon Studies Council is hosting Florence as he shares and discusses a twenty-minute excerpt this Sunday.

Here’s an interview with Florence for more information on the movement and his project, and here’s Terryl Givens on the movement. Visit the website if you would like to receive updates such as additional upcoming events or the film’s rollout.

Part II: A couple takeaways.

For some reason I hadn’t bothered to google him prior, but Nathan Florence is a painter, and a pretty good one at that (based on the jpgs).

I hope to do more on this film as time goes on, but for now, here are two nice quotations from the extant 20 minutes:

“Illustration answers questions. Art asks questions.”
– – – Dennis Smith (I think it was Dennis Smith)

“Vulnerability equals intimacy.”
– – – Trevor Southey (this one I know is correctly attributed)

Part III: What to do with $100,000.

They have a distributor and big names like Sterling Van Wagenen and Lesley Chilcott are on-board, but they need money to finish it. AMV readers are famed for their deep pockets and generous natures so, you know, get yourself an executive-producer credit.

SDCC and Pariah Missouri

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Trevor Alvord and I gave presentations at the recently completed San Diego Comic-Con International. I may get around to connecting the subpar audio to the slideshow, but if you’re interested you can look at the pictures sans commentary now. If you have questions, please ask.

One of the first and most worth discussions questions we took during our Q&A came from Andres Salazar, a writer/artist I’d never heard of before and creator of Pariah Missouri, an indirectly Mormon-themed Western.

The gist of the question was this:

How do we decide, as Mormon creators, how much Mormon to stick into our works?

We should have hosted a panel with creators just to address that question. It’s a good one, and later that evening at dinner with some Mormon filmmakers, we rehashed it.

My answer at the time, basically, was that more specific works are more universal, and we can trust audiences to keep up with fully Mormon works. I made the Maus comparison and should have mentioned American Born Chinese—two widely beloved comics that make the point.

Anyway. That’s it for this minireport. I have some books that were given to me that I’ll write up here on AMV in the near future.

Until then, join me in checking out Pariah Missouri. But don’t dawdle! It has an active Kickstarter and now’s the time to get in. Third volume’s the last volume, so if you want a supernatural western with a Mormony aftertaste, act now.

Theric at
San Diego Comic-Con International

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As part of this ongoing hoax of me being expert, I will be presenting on Mormons in Comics with Trevor Alvord (BYU librarian and the man who has unquestionably outraced me in expertise).

 

sched

 

People discussed in my presentation will also be present including Tyler Kirkham (on at least one panel), Ryan Ottley (booth 4601), Mike and Laura Allred (Eisner Awards), Jed Henry (not in my presentation but in the Nucleus booth). There are some other Mormon or Mormon-adjacent folk there as well. Noah Van Sciver is also nominated for an Eisner but, ah, I neglected to ask if he’ll be there.

“The Split House” by Annie Poon

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Center Street in Provo is swiftly becoming the happen’est locale in Mormon arts. Pioneer Book has been hosting the monthly Mormon Lit Discussion Group and, more pertinent to this post, Writ and Vision has been hosting some great events and filling its gallery with provocative art.

Opening next weekend: Annie Poon.

Not being in Utah, I can’t speak much to the show (though I’ve seen the catalogue and it looks swell), but Annie gave me access to her new short film playing at Writ and Vision so let’s talk about that, shall we?

TheSplitHouse_00

It’s just under five minutes long and, thematically, strikes me as a cross between “Runaway Bathtub” and “Annie’s Circus“—and certainly it shares with those films its surrealism. (Aside: I don’t mean surreal, as it often seems to be used today, in the sense of Dalíesque—but, as Breton said, from the position of believing that “pure dreaming . . . is not inferior to the sum of the moments of reality.” All three of these films engage in a fluidity associated more with dreams than the empirical world, and all three of them find their truths through breezing past the strict requirements of realism.

Annie’s cut-out animation encourages viewer identification with her characters. Their ink-on-paper simplicity also connects us to childhood. While with “Runaway Bathtub” this connection is explicit and unbroken, even the “adult” characters of “Annie’s Circus” or “Split House,” by virtue of their medium of presentation, are as safe to identify with as a child. We haven’t all been owls, but the childlike innocence implicit in even her most dangerous characters, makes them as easy to identify with.

As the title suggests, “The Split House” includes various instances of characters splitting. When the woman transforms into an owl, for one. Here are two more: Continue reading ““The Split House” by Annie Poon”

Adam & Eve in 2016

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AMV’s about page is very upfront about the inbred nature of the current Mormon-arts community, but this post seems to require a direct reminder of the fact.

The new online miniseries Adam & Eve is written and directed by Davey and Bianca Morrison Dillard. They were both early joiners of New Play Project, which began life as “mere” student works, yet gained acclaim, gathering words like renaissance and breakthrough and baby-this-is-the-future. It didn’t hurt that established playwrights like Eric Samuelsen and Melissa Leilani Larsen, and Mahonri Stewart were seduced by all this young blood and provided additional work for them to produce. No doubt, NPP, while it lasted, was a marvelous thing, and everyone involved deserves fond memories of their own and long memories of ourn.

My intimacy with NPP began with Davey approached me about publishing a collection of NPP work. I had a couple stipulations but was largely hands off, and the thing came out almost six years ago now, if you can believe it. Among the short plays included in the collections was Davey’s “Adam & Eve.” It was his first attempt at playwriting. One of his better NPP plays. And, apparently, has not unclutched him ever since as it appears now in serial film form as “Adam & Eve.”

[keep reading] Continue readingAdam & Eve in 2016″

We Came to Earth to Fail
the deluxe Studio C fireside recap

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Having two new visitors swing by AMV to engage on a single post doesn’t happen as much as it used to. And so their desire for more of my notes regarding the Studio C fireside seem worth heeding.

That said, if you’re new to Motley Vision, look around a bit! Here’s a brief smattering of posts from the past few months—promise me you’ll click on at least one (they’ll open in a new tab):

Okay. Now that that’s open and waiting for you, let’s go on, shall we? Continue reading “We Came to Earth to Fail
the deluxe Studio C fireside recap”

There and back again—
then onward ever onward
a chat with Dendo‘s Brittany Long Olsen

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I try to keep up on the what’s-what in Mormon comics, but I didn’t even hear about Brittany Long Olsen until she was getting interviewed by Andrew Hall, followed by her book getting serious attention from the AML.

Which book, by the way, deserves that attention. Dendo is the erstwhile Sister Long’s day-by-day comics record of her mission in Japan. By its gradual accumulation of small moments, both highs and lows—by relentlessly capturing the mundanity of mission life, she accomplishes the truly epic event that is a proselyting mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m not a huge reader of the missionary-memoir genre, but for my money, Dendo is the best out there.

(And, I should note, for your money as well.)

This is an interview I conducted with Brittany on March 2, 2016 (with slight edits to make us both look better).

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Hello, this is Brittany.

Hey Brittany, this is Theric Jepson.

Hello.

How are you?

Good, I’m good. How are you?

I’m great. Shall we start?

Yeah.

Okay, so the first question I wanna ask you is: Dendo seems to capture missionary experience a lot more universally than you seemed to expect. Is that—

Oh yeah? Continue reading “There and back again—
then onward ever onward
a chat with Dendo‘s Brittany Long Olsen

“Sometimes in the arena you look really stupid.”
a report from the Studio C fireside

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Note: don’t forget your Saturday deadline!

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It’s just down the 880 from me, but somehow I’ve never heard of the Silicon Valley Comic Con and so I didn’t know this was happening:

studio-c-0

And because I somehow finally managed to unsubscribe from the golf-for-MBAs-laden BYU Alumni email list, I didn’t know about this either:

studio c

But Mormons morming as well as they do, I heard about both. And my kids were insanely excited to drive over to Temple Hill this evening to see their current favorite YouTubers. (This is a lie. Their actual favorites are these guys.)

I knew about Studio C when they were nascent, by which I mean I knew they grew out of Divine Comedy. But when I was at BYU, there were so many comedy troupes one tended to pick favorites and feel loyal. I picked Garrens because they were defunct and so cost me very little in time or money. And so, you know, screw Divine Comedy.

This disinterest was a bit embarrassing when I was at a movie-meeting-thingey and the biggest person in the room suggested Mallory of Studio C to play Ref. I . . . had no idea who they were talking about. After they flew me home, I watched all of Mallory I could on YouTube and agreed she should at least be auditioned. Then the whole thing fell apart la de la da and that was the last I thought about Studio C until Scott Sterling took the world by storm. My kids loved Scott Sterling and a month or two ago it occurred to them to watch more Studio C. Since then, it seems that’s all we watch together.

Anyway. 269 words and we still haven’t arrived in Oakland. Let’s go, shall we? Continue reading ““Sometimes in the arena you look really stupid.”
a report from the Studio C fireside”