Mormon artists: Daniel Bartholomew

Daniel Bartholomew lives in New York. He works at Yeshiva University.

March_2007_drawing-scan-1-negative-resized-smaller

I experience a lot of joy through artwork, even though I don’t get to do it enough. Honestly, if I could figure out how to market things, I could spend the rest of my life exploring line and color. I’d like to do some much larger artworks — really unleash things. I think it could get pretty fun and crazy quickly.

It has taken me a long time to figure out how I feel about my own artwork. Years ago I went through a rather discouraging (and false) phase where I thought my artwork wasn’t spiritual. It was becoming almost an all-encompassing obsession and I wasn’t sure where it would take me — so I destroyed the artwork I had and made an effort to go in other directions. Part of the problem was that I was finding the artists I liked and identified with to some extent (Kandinsky, Keith Haring and others who experiment with line and color) weren’t exactly family people or religious people. Also, I realized that art was almost all they were — and I wanted to have other facets to my personality. Most importantly, I wanted to stick with the faith, so to speak and was worried that somehow my artwork interest could take me out of the church (though I had never been inactive). I thought LDS people would not be able to identify with my artwork and that it would only appeal to worldly or sinful people. I wanted to feel more sure about the direction I was going and not just have my artwork pull me wherever it would.

It took me awhile to realize I was wrong about my artwork not having spiritual value. I have realized (or at least I feel) that the artwork is cheerful and friendly and fun and that these are spiritual values. There is a quote about Helen Hardin, an artist I adore, that I found recently. It says:

Hardin, who died in 1984, felt her work was spiritual, not in the structure, religious sense, but in the ‘sense of being alive and human, a sense of an affirmation of the spirit.’ (Paradox, Precision and Passion)

That’s what I feel my artwork accomplishes, to some degree. My art isn’t particularly Mormon on the face of it — but someday I do hope to incorporate scripture (particularly Book of Mormon scripture) into my artwork. Being a Mormon is a big part of who I am and I want to reflect that in my art in a way that is respectful, loving, faithful, etc. That’s a tricky business, but certainly completely possible. I just haven’t had the time to develop a system of symbols or an approach to using words that would work … but it is something I think about. I’d love nothing more than to find a way to perfectly merge these two things in a way that people (including myself) could really enjoy them.

Daniel is happy for people to download art from his site.

Comments

  1. Dan, I think this is a really stunning piece of art.

  2. Ronan, thank you so much for the kind words.

  3. Dan,

    That is a beautiful piece of art. Not sure if I can say anything further; I’m not an art connoisseur.

    by the way, I also love Kandinsky.

  4. Something like this would look great on the white wall of a New York penthouse. How big is the original? Huge, I hope.

  5. I’ll need to go home and measure it. According to Irfan view the uncropped scan I have available to measure is about 20 x 30. It would be somewhat smaller than that.

    I should note that the drawing above is a negative image of the original. Negative images are interesting with artworks like these because the color schemes are often a very nice surprise. I often like the negative images even better than the originals.

  6. Thanks for some of your thoughts, Dan. This is a great segment and I hope we have more like it.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Beautiful, Dan.

    Are you involved in the Mormon Artists’ Group that is active in NYC? We seem to have a real critical mass of artists there these days.

  8. Kevin, I’ll have to learn more about the Mormon Artists’ Group you are talking about. I know Corey Bjarnson (artist) and D. Fletcher (musician).

  9. You finished it! Looks awesome.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    They have a website, here.

    I only know about it because Valerie Atkisson’s brother used to live in our stake (he is now in San Francisco).

  11. Kevin, thanks for providing that website link. I was wondering if Mormoniana was associated with this group you were talking about. I heard something about Mormoniana through D. Fletcher but didn’t fully appreciate/realize how it was associated with this group of artists.

  12. Well done.

  13. Nice, Dan. I love the quote from Helen Hardin, too. As an artist myself, I struggle to some degree with similar things, and I commend you for trying. Love the peice, by the way, and I’m off to check out your site and see your other work. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Incidentaly, what’s your medium? From afar, it looks almost like a print, but up close, more like guache…?

  15. Tracy, the original is done in pen and ink on paper. The picture above is a negative of the original, so that might make it look more like a print.

    Stages of the original art piece can be found on my old blog here.

  16. Doug Evans says:

    Well folks, my wife is a very talented and prolific Mormon artist who also serves in Seattle Temple as an Ordinance Worker. She constantly shows great faith and a sensitivity to the spiritual messages embraced in the scriptures that she translates into works of art.

    Her recently developed web site can be found at
    http://marleneevans.photium.com. Within it you will find paintings referring to the creation as well as the powerful hymn “A Poor Wayfaring Man”.

    Your thoughts and feelings would be appreciated.

  17. Doug,
    I think I’ve seen some of Marlene’s art in an apartment in Manhattan. I seem to recall being impressed.

  18. Oh I love this segment. Great idea.

    Daniel, your art is beautiful!

  19. I love the link to the work in progress. It’s very interesting to see how you created it. I do indeed like the negative image.

  20. I love it, Dan.

  21. danithew, yours was one of the first names I encountered when I stumbled upon the Bloggernacle. always good to have you around the ‘nacle!!

    I love the artwork! I’m not art savvy, so any attempt of mine to describe it would not do it justice. Sufficient to say, I love it!

  22. Thanks everyone for the kind words! It means a lot to me.

    I really am flattered that Ronan asked me to post some artwork here at BCC:, so thanks for that as well.

    Just a note people – my wife and I just saw The Namesake … wow what a movie! Amazing.

    (I’m typing this at the Apple Store here in NYC. I think I’ll just rip this MacBook out of the wall and carry it out with me. Surely they won’t mind.)

  23. I heard about the Namesake on NPR today and it sounded wonderful. I want to go see it. I love the artwork, too. Thanks so much for posting it.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    The previews for the Namesake look good; it hasn’t come here yet, though, so I appreciate the tip for when it does arrive.

  25. Steve Evans says:

    If only there were a review of it somewhere.

  26. Looking for contemporary visual artists who are active or inactive Mormons from all over the country, visit headofshiz.com. Another site is artistsofutah.org, which has Mormons among many other artists living in Utah. Look for Tom Alders column which explore late 19th and early 20th century Utah artists from Salt Lake City, most of them were LDS.

  27. looks really good, Daniel. I don’t think art has to look religious to be spiritual. And I think a lot of the spiritual reactions we have to art come from ourselves and not necessarily the artist or her intentions.

    I think confusing “religious” with “spiritual” sometimes makes LDS artists reluctant to express themselves in ways that don’t seem “mormon” enough to them. Just create what comes naturally, and your mormon-ness will be there, even if no one else can see it.

    While not all that similar, this piece reminded me of a friend’s work named Todd Chilton, who currently resides in Chicago. You can check him out here…

    http://www.toddchilton.com/portfolio.htm

    Anyway, I hope you keep it up.

    I’m a frequent BCC lurker, and it was a nice surprise to surf over today and see some of your artwork… I’ve been a fan since you showed me some of your line drawings in Washington DC during a family reunion about… oh… 20 years ago. Cheers, cousin. :)

  28. cj douglass says:

    danithew,
    I go to Parsons. Aren’t you right across the street from me? BTW your work is enjoyable to look at.

  29. Great post, danithew. I like your art. It certainly is cheerful and friendly and fun. And heaven help us if these aren’t spiritual values.

  30. WOw, Danithew, I’m so impressed. You don’t teach art at Yeshiva University, do you? For some reason I thought you were a lawyer!

    Your piece is terrific!

  31. I love it, danithew! Glad you get a chance to share.

  32. Greg, WOW! It’s cool to see that another relative of mine is a lurker and I’m glad you came out of hiding momentarily to say howdy. Send me an email if you can (or I’ll send you one). Thanks for providing the Todd Chilton link – I’m going to have to look at the artwork more closely. I should tell you that occasionally I’ll bump into old friends who ask about my drawing. I have one college roommate/buddy who kept some of my drawings from back then. This reminds me that I should make him send me some scans as I really have no memory of the specific drawings he’s talking about.

    CJ Douglass, if you’re in NYC it would be fun to meet sometime. I’m going to have to look up Parsons and see where it is at. I know there were some art schools around Cardozo Law School (associated with Yeshiva University) but I’m at the uptown Wilf campus, working in the advising office.

    Meems, I’m not teaching art, but I’m very much enjoying being in the midst of an orthodox Jewish environment. I don’t know if anywhere else I could mix my love for Jerusalem (or Jewish culture) and New York City in quite the same way. So I’m very content to be there. Great people and I learn new things almost every day.

    Tatiana and others – the Namesake really is a great movie. My wife and I both loved it. What an incredible story about an newly married Indian couple moving to NYC. The story basically takes us through the history of their relationship, having children, their children growing up, etc. It’s PG-13 because it has some sexual elements and a scene where someone smokes some marijuana – but I feel the positive elements of the story are so powerfully given. I hate to give almost anything away, but there is a special tenderness in Ashima and Ashoke’s relationship that is remarkable. Ashoke is dignified, loving, soft-spoken – a very ideal figure of what I think a husband and father should be (though I don’t quite hit that standard myself). Honestly, for some reason, I thought of the scripture where Heavenly Father is speaking to the Nephites and they have to listen before they finally hear him the third time. I think Ashoke provides an example of that quality in a human being. (maybe I’m crazy for making that comparison). Ashoke loves his children and there are times you can see they don’t quite fully appreciate his qualities until they’ve matured more fully.

    Like I said, I’m giving too much away. Powerful film. I believe it is adapted from a novel because someone else who saw the movie with me said the movie doesn’t provide some details or parts of the story that are in the book.

  33. wonderful, Daniel, just wonderful

  34. Dan, I remember seeing some of your sketches when we were working together in that rat trap building in Provo more than 10 years ago. I remembered how detailed and intricate they were then, so I was fascinated to see this piece. It’s amazing. I’m just so impressed.

  35. a random John says:

    danithew,

    This is interesting in that I’ve seen this before, but never vertically, which changes it. Did you intend for it to be displayed that way as you were creating it?

  36. Annegb, thanks!

    Karen, I think the most fun of that job (scanning old books) was the conversations we had. I remember thinking you were one of the most fun people to talk to, which made the monotony of scanning those old books much more bearable.

    ARJ, sometimes I have strong feelings about the direction in which a piece should be seen. When I’m drawing a piece, I’m almost always viewing continually from a specific direction – which might bias the results. However, one of the potential strengths of a strong abstract design (as opposed to a realist piece) is that it can be turned and viewed in a number of different ways. Usually in the process of doing that, I’ll come to a conclusion that I prefer a particular direction (though it might not be the direction in which I was holding the paper as I was drawing it). It’s nice though to have the option open – to walk up to a piece and turn it ‘upside down’ and still have it function well as an artwork.

    That’s one of the reasons I’ve thought I might avoid signing artwork on the front – to avoid forcing a strict directionality.

  37. Daniel, I run Mormon Artists Group. I liked your comments about faith and art–that’s what we’re all trying to figure out. I might have a project that could interest you. Drop me a note if you’d like: mgknelson@aol.com

  38. Glen, thanks for providing that information. I just sent you an email. I’d love to learn more about the projects you are doing.

  39. The original of this piece (you can see what it looks like here) has been donated to a New York New York Stake Youth Fundraising Auction. This auction will be tomorrow (Saturday) May 12 at the Lincoln Square church/temple building. The address is 125 Columbus Avenue/2 Lincoln Square. The building is quite prominent on 66th and Columbus or 65th and Columbus (I forget the exact street #). Just look a Moroni on a steeple.

    So if you are in the area and like the artwork enough you could buy it. It might even sell for a very nice (cheap) price, depending on how many LDS people present have an interest in this sort of thing.

    In it’s current state the piece is unframed and raw-looking (it’s stapled to a piece of poster-board) but a person could easily remove it, frame it and it would look great on your wall.

  40. I forgot to add the time – the auction is scheduled for 6pm.

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