Neylan McBaine is a recurring guest at By Common Consent.
By now, it’s old news that rock star Brandon Flowers of The Killers is Mormon. And perhaps you’ve heard of our other coolest Mormon performer, internationally renown DJ Kaskade. But what if I told you we could also claim a female rock star? A drummer, at that? A drummer whose band’s single reached #1 on the Alternative Rock Chart? Meet Elaine Bradley of the Neon Trees at the Mormon Women Project.
When Krisanne Hastings, a volunteer interview producer with the Mormon Women Project, approached me several months ago about creating a section for interviews with “Artistic Women,” I encouraged her to take the idea and run with it. As the daughter of a Mormon singer myself, I’ve long been attuned to the presence of artists among our people and especially the presence of female artists, and I was delighted she wanted to shed more light on them. Within our culture, artists are both revered as well as held at arm’s length: revered because their professions take such courage, skill and soulfulness, and yet we still approach them warily because of the stereotypes of promiscuity, substance abuse and inner torture of the artistic culture. The essential conundrum has always been how can a Mormon, whose religious culture eschews conflict as assiduously as it avoids the after-party binges, really reflect the depressive and redemptive vacillations required in emotionally honest artistry?
Elaine Bradley represents a young generation of Mormons that is answering this conundrum by using their own soul searching as the fuel for their artistic honesty. In our “Artistic Women” category we are featuring mothers who paint and design while their babies nap and others and also actresses and musicians who are responding to their most innate drives by pursuing their art on the world’s stage. Krisanne Hastings describes the connections and insights she’s gaining from our “Artistic Women” series here:
I believe all of us are, at our very core, artists. It is weaved through our DNA as sons and daughters of God. I think what separates most of us from those we consider “real” artists is a fierce belief in personal creative power. Artistic people believe in their inherent creativity with such abandon that they willingly (and often painfully) paint their wet and beating heart onto the canvas for public consumption. You need only view a Frida Kahlo painting to realize that creation is serious business. To be unabashedly honest, brave and faithful in humankind’s inherent power is the real stuff of creativity. It is those very attributes that make interviewing Mormon women artists so inspiring to me.
Artist is a poignant title among Mormon women who believe that creation is an integral part of our physical and spiritual bodies. Giving birth is the ultimate metaphor for the creative process: laborious and bloody with a joyful exhale. Sometimes the birth of an idea, a crescendo, or a brushstroke will push women through similar stretches of pain and transcendence. Elaine Bradley walked me through her own experience with this process. She expressed everything from the ache she felt in believing that God disapproved of her desire to perform rock music to the passion and drive that catapulted her to international fame to the ultimate realization that God was not her detractor but instead the director and steward of her gifts. Elaine and the other artistic women I have interviewed for the Mormon Women Project use new language to tell our ancient and known stories. Most importantly they possess the candor, the faith and the courage to share this expanded vision to the benefit of us all.