Carry On: A Reminder of Black Beret Sunday

Marron bannerI’ve been a little quiet lately on AMV because of dissertation work, but I’ll be finishing Zane Grey’s surprisingly excellent (so far) anti-Mormon novel Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) sometime next week, and I expect to have a lot to say about it (and Ed Harris, for that matter).

Before tomorrow (2/3) comes, though, I want to remind everyone about Black Beret Sunday. Don’t forget to take this opportunity to raise awareness about Mormon Art and Literature by wearing a black beret, a maroon-colored item of clothing, and/or a cockroach pin. I know many people–including me–have certain reservations about the ethics and effectiveness of Sunday activism, but I am sure the following death threats I have receive will steel your nerves and lend conviction to your soul:

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Marco Lui’s The Book of Life now available

Italian Mormon filmmaker Marco Lui’s LDS-themed comedy “The Book of Life” is now available as a digital download for only $4.99.

Those of you who attended last year’s LDS Film Festival (or read coverage of it) may recall the film “The Book of Life” by Marco Lui. It was quite the audience favorite, garnering favorable local media coverage and a very positive review at Mormon Artist Magazine. And if that’s not good enough for you — KevinB at AMV sister site LDS Cinema Online gives it a B+.

It is now available as a $4.99 download at Audience Alliance.

Not only is the film a new take on the classic “boy-girl meet in pre-existence and then meet again on earth narrative”, it’s an Italian (with English subtitles) LDS-themed comedy. Plus the press clippings (and people I know who have seen the film) say that Marco has a real gift for physical comedy. An Italian Mormon Modern-day Charlie Chaplin? That’s worth checking out.

The trailer:

Art evolves

#78 in David Shields’ Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (Amazon):

“It is important for a writer to be cognizant of the marginilization of literature by more technologically sophisticated and more visceral narrative forms. You can work in these forms or use them or write about them or through them, but I don’t think it’s a very good idea to go on writing in a vacuum. Culture, like science, moves forward. Art evolves.”

I’m not saying Shields is right* or wrong (nor am, I, contrary to one of the hyperventilated claims by a blurb or review of the book — can’t remember which — either loving or hating the book. It’s got some good points and some effective goading; it’s got some ineffective goading and some silly preoccupations). And to be fair to Shields — there’s also a lot of context (618 different sections) that’s missing if all you see is #78, and the work itself is a pastiche that includes (unattributed except for in the notes section at the end of the book) aphorisms and quips and earnest predictions, etc. from many other writers, so this is an act of cherrypicking.

All that said: does art evolve? Or does it progress? Or does it restore? Or does it preserve? Or does it increase? Or does it roll forth? (to use a series of verbs that have some resonance in Mormon thought).

*I originally had “write” when this was posted. I may trot out the silly postmodern puns from time to time, but “write or wrong” wasn’t intentional at all.

What are the themes of Mormonism?

About a decade ago I read an essay on the modern artist Wayne Thiebaud which talked about the communal aspects of his work. The essay attributed these aspects of his work to the communal aspects of his youth, from his birth in a Mesa, Arizona LDS community. Of course there are many communal aspects to Mormon culture, and at least some of those are unique to Mormonism. But as I’ve thought and read about Mormon art, I’ve increasingly realized how at odds this view of Thiebaud is with views from within the Church about Mormon art, where Thiebaud’s work is not considered Mormon.

The difference I see comes down to a disagreement about themes in art.

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Reading Until Dawn’s Lone (Were)wolf

I don’t want to take anything away from National Poetry Month with another Twilight bender, but Theric’s worked so hard on his essay, “Saturday’s Werewolf: Vestiges of the Premortal Romance in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Novels,” that I thought I should jump in and give him his dues. Here’s the abstract:

“Saturday’s Werewolf explores Twilight in terms of the supernatural literature of the Latter-day Saints, specifically as the series links to the premortal romance narrative mode, as exemplified in Nephi Anderson’s Added Upon (1898) and Douglas Stewart’s popular musical Saturday’s Warrior (1989).”

It’s an entertaining and insightful read that I’ve just posted at Reading Until Dawn (both PDF and HTML versions available there). Come take a look after you finish commenting on Laura’s Harvest post.

And don’t be scared: RUD’s lone (were)wolf doesn’t bite. But it just might inspire you to submit.

Browns and Rusts: Meditations On J. Kirk Richards (Part I)

In my opinion, J. Kirk Richards* is one of the shining lights—the suns, really—of Mormon visual art. His work is well-crafted, poignant, spiritual, and deeply affective.

When I first came across his paintings, most notably Cherubim and a Flaming Sword, I connected with his world on such a human level that I felt constrained to write about it. And yet, I also sensed that some critical exposition titled something like “The Judeo-Christian Symbolism of J. Kirk Richard’s Paintings” wouldn’t do my response—or his art, for that matter—justice.

So I decided to converse with him in another way, to respond to his art with mine.

Thus was born Browns and Rusts, my ekphrastic, poetic meditations on J. Kirk Richards. The first link in this paragraph will take you to a PDF of part I of Browns and Rusts, which includes the six poems I’ve completed to date (laid out, at this point, in no particular order), though I use that word, “completed,” tentatively: when, really, is a piece of writing ever fully complete? I should say, then, that I’m comfortable enough with where these poems are for the moment that I wanted to share them with AMV’s readers. Other poems for the collection are in process, so sometime in the (who-knows-when) future, I’ll post more here.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions—your presence in and response to my world-in-process.

*My apologies to Kirk for getting his first name wrong the first time through; it’s Joel, not John. Don’t know where I got my misinformation from. Now that I’m sufficiently embarrassed, it won’t happen again…

Mormon Fine Art and Graven Images

(this is the first in a series of six posts on the Pillars of Mormon Art)

…thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
(Exodus 20:4)

This little verse has caused more turmoil in art and in history throughout the monotheistic world than perhaps any other. It characterizes Islamic art, which for centuries has avoided the depiction of any living creature, for the fear that the artist who tried to create was usurping the role of the One true Creator. It characterizes the turmoil in Byzantium, it crops up again in the Protestant reformation, which sees Netherlanders whitewashing their cathedrals to separate themselves from their Catholic Belgian cousins. Its subsequent transformation into anti-religious fervor is the battle cry of the French revolutionaries, the Bolsheviks, and the Communists in China. In more recent years, it rears an impious head as the Taliban government of Afghanistan destroys monumental Buddhist sculpture.

And faithful Latter-day Saints find themselves alternately sympathizing with both viewpoints.

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Mr. Buber’s Cat

Warning: Philosophical flight ahead, soaring high into the ether, bearing little or no entertainment value and no direct references to Mormonism, the election, or Prop 8.  Just so you know.

These fall mornings, to get blood going to my brain, I walk out into the desert near my house.  A few days ago I went up onto a nearby ATV route that beats a bare path south.  This I followed a short distance, heading to a spot having clear views east to Sleeping Ute Mountain in Colorado, southeast to Shiprock in New Mexico, and south-southeast to the Carrizo Mountains in Arizona.

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