Monday, May 1, 2017

Day 88: Shelley Whiting

For June 2nd show AT BURTON BARR CENTRAL LIBRARY, (6:30-8:00PM) also available to view during regular library hours throughout June

I grew up as a Mormon. Throughout the years I have yearned for a strong testimony. My mom had a blind faith in the religion. She wouldn’t flinch an eyelash at historical opposition or a different viewpoint. As a person who overanalyzes things, I haven’t yet had a firm belief. As a kid I overheard a peer say they had a memory of the preexistence. There was a part of me that wished I had that kind of belief-affirming experience. Throughout the years I would wonder “How would a pre-life heaven look?” I have a twin sister and often I would imagine me and her in a preexistence playing tricks on each other.
I think the idea of a premortal life is mystical in part because the doctrine says very little except that it existed, it was with God, that all people that ever lived and ever will live were there as literal spirit brothers and sisters. As to exactly what a heaven-before-life looks like, we're left to our imaginations to fill in the gaps.
When I started this series I wanted to paint a thousand people in every painting. In my mind the preexistence was packed, every spirit, every soul all in one place. I thought I was going to paint a scene full of stereotypical glorious angels. As I painted, however my tricksterish view of the prelife inevitably manifested itself. The backgrounds consistently changed to a vibrant red.
Part of why my faith has been unsteady throughout the years is because of my manic depressive disorder and OCD. I have never had the ubiquitous Mormon demeanor of a warm glow and a smile. I never could picture a universe of complacent people especially when my day to day existence could sometimes be so bleak. Years ago I started painting darker art to mirror my mental illness. Ironically, allowing myself to express all aspects of my life and personality, even the darker ones, has made me a much happier person.
Roman art is classical and timeless. There is something timeless about marble, the rich soft blues, the blacks and golds. If anything typifies a heavenly atmosphere it seems that the Romans were close. I keep the outfits in the pictures simple, often just a loin cloth mainly to show the character's bodies.  I am drawn to Roman architecture mainly of the oculus. Looking upwards towards a skylight is warm and inviting. I repeat an organic circle shape at the top and bottom of many of my pictures.

I call this series Before Time. I hope this series makes its viewers wonder, “What was life like before time existed?”
Instagram: @shelley.whiting

During progress of the painting above, a detail