Let Me Drown with Moses by James Goldberg (2015)
This collection consists of just fewer than fifty poems so no single description will cover all it has to say, but here, I think, is a key thought to carry into reading it: The speakers of these poems (generally, one assumes, Goldberg himself) genuinely love what they are writing about (their faith, their family, etc). But this love does not cause them to fall into blind raptures. No, love rather allows them to see more clearly all their beloved’s features, whether cracked or smooth. This is perhaps clearest and most moving in “And the People Deceived Me (The Prophet’s Lament).” Brigham Young’s lament follows a series of poems that reenacted grotesque actions taken by Mormon settlers against their Native neighbors. The prophet is horrified by the evil his people have done and wishes to have his mantle removed—but simultaneously he is grateful to have sipped God’s bitter cup and to have had his heart broken open in similitude thereof.
Letters to a Young Mormon by Adam S. Miller (2013)
Sometimes the way we teach the gospel does not in fact suggest that the Lord’s yoke is easy nor that his burden is light. I remember plenty of self-recrimination in my younger years as I examined my many failures as a Latter-day Saint. In this slim volume that takes the form of letters to his daughter, Miller addresses basic-if-fraught concepts like sin and love, and spins them out in new ways that feel true and generous. His means of taking these bits of gospel and connecting them one to another into a sensible whole can seem simple at times, but simultaneously reveal the complexity of a religion that transforms lives. As someone who views life as narrative, I was particularly struck by Miller’s descriptions of people creating their own story instead of trusting the story God has planned for them. This is thinking rich for further exploration.
Pilot by pd mallamo (2017)
I read Mallamo’s new novella as a proof provided by the author, but the nature of the work is such that some aspects—such as its paucity of terminal punctuation—may be errors about to be removed or may be a deliberate artistic choice and, really, how could one tell? The story is of a Moldovan girl deceived into a life of prostitution in more Western lands, making it as far as L.A. as she is bought and sold. The story itself is something of a phantasmagoria of hope and despair and bemusement filtered through a series of benefactors and pimps and, perhaps, God. Although the novella, I would argue, is nearly areligious in its attitude, it is rife with religious thoughts and feelings and even one of the better written scenes of revelation I’ve read. This story intends to upset the possibility of answers even before asking any questions. In the end, even happy endings are unlikely to satisfy in this world. But if we must live a fallen life, at least we can experience pleasure and pain along the way.
This is our ward’s fourth annual Mormon Arts Sunday, though I’m the only one really aware of that fact. This year I brought back the sacrament-meeting topic from year one, What Creating Teaches Me About the Creator.
Our first speaker was a fifteen-year-old writer of stories, novels, and screenplays. He noted two things about God he’s learned from creating:
First, sometimes he feels frustration when art doesn’t turn out the way it’s supposed to. Yet our Heavenly Parents don’t strike us down with lightning!
Second, sometimes when writing you can get in the zone and that is true joy! This, he said, helps us understand our Parents love for us.
The rest of his talk, for a while, had me worried he was going off the rails comparing Odin to Jesus (he started, after all, by comparing Odin’s mead to Jesus’s Holy Spirit), but he ended up having a great point. Continue reading “#MormonArtsSunday in Berkeley”
Have you ever heard of Garrick Infanger? I haven’t.
Have you ever heard of The Krakens? Not until tonight, I hadn’t.
I was searching for information on LDS artist Heather Dixon and found a brief interview with her on this Krakens site. Further explanation reveals it is curated by one Garrick Infanger (of whom I have never heard) and has been since, I think, 2015.
And it is awesome.
It has people I know well and people I’m immediately excited to discover and people I never would have thought to look for. It covers the oldies and it covers those who make things happen.
It is, in short, a great addition to the Mormon Arts world and I commend it to you.
also on Instagram
I wasn’t aware of Anthony Holden until only just recently when a mutual friend pointed me in the direction of his new book, Precious Rascals. I just finished reading a pdf of the book, which I concluded then immediately ordered a hard copy to share with my own family.
Precious Rascals is half comics diary, half memoir. Holden is sharing with comics he made first for himself and perhaps his wife, then for his children—sort of a large plates in funny-pictures form. The comics are charming and funny, and the accompanying prose is charismatic even when it risks becoming self-indulgent (which isn’t often; largely it’s as fun as the pictures).
I’m writing about his book here because the way he deals with his family’s LDSness is interesting. Interesting largely because it is utterly matter-of-fact. He doesn’t feel the need to make it a big deal; he doesn’t feel the need to secretize their Mormon identity.
It is, in other words, a healthily unapologetic way of being publically Mormon. So if you need a theory-centric reason to buy a book that will make you laugh, let that be it.
Here are a couple more little bits to show the range of Signifying Mormon seen in the collection:
David Parkin gave me a copy of The Devil Is Due in Dreary after my Comic-Con presentation. He’s a friend of a friend and we all ate dinner together, discussing the nature of being a Mormon and an artist and/or a Mormon artist. Also, I’m sad to share, I heard some unpleasant stories about bias against Mormons in Tinseltown. So there’s that.
Anyway, The Devil Is Due in Dreary shares some surface traits with Pariah Missouri—terrifyingly authoritarian religious orders in a Western setting tinged with the supernatural. But Dreary is either modern or near-modern and thus Dreary the town isn’t merely frontier (as is Pariah), but isolated—a pocket of the past trapped in the modern world. Continue reading “Reading The Devil Is Due in Dreary as a Mormon text”
As this post appears, you have less than one day to get into the Pariah Missouri Kickstarter, so open that in a new tab now, so’s you don’t forget.
You may recall that I’ve mentioned this comic before, but that was before I’d read it. Now I have and I’m ready to talk about its Mormon elements.
The first thing to know is that all I can discuss at present of the story’s first two volumes as the third and presumably final volume is the Kickstarter’s raison d’être. Therefore I will not be attempting any sort of Meaning of the Work as a Whole or analyzing its Mormon elements with that sort of goal in mind. Rather, my interest today is comparing the Mormon aspects of the two books available now. After all—that’s what the author challenged me to do!
(The author, Andres Salazar, sent me review copies gratis.) Continue reading “Mormon Easter Eggs and
Mormon Veins of Gold
in Pariah Missouri“
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.