I am finally getting around to posting the many images from an exhibition of my paintings at the Washington DC Temple Visitors' Center, which have been on display since June 15 and will be up thru Oct 31st, 2013. The title of the exhibition is called "'Jesus Once Was A Little Child, Images from the Early Years of the Savior," a title which I borrowed from the Primary Children's song by the same name (music by Joseph Ballantyne and text by James R. Murray).
A view from the exhibition entrance, "Jesus Once Was a Little Child": Images of the Early Years of the Savior by Rose Datoc Dall at the Washington, DC Temple Visitors' Center.
A view of the Washington DC Temple from the Temple Visitors' Center entrance.
Panoramic view of exhibition wall 02 at the DC Temple Visitors' Center. "Jesus Once Was a Little Child": Images from the Early Years of the Savior by artist Rose Datoc Dall.
Panoramic view of the entire exhibition space, at the DC Temple Visitors' Center. "Jesus Once Was a Little Child": Images from the Early Years of the Savior by artist Rose Datoc Dall.
Panoramic view of exhibition wall 04 at the DC Temple Visitors' Center. "Jesus Once Was a Little Child": Images from the Early Years of the Savior by artist Rose Datoc Dall.
Panoramic view of exhibition wall 01 at the DC Temple Visitors' Center. "Jesus Once Was a Little Child": Images from the Early Years of the Savior by artist Rose Datoc Dall.
For many months I have been completing many paintings to round out this exhibition which centers around this series of paintings exploring the early years of the Savior. In addition, we collected from my clients pieces on loan for a retrospective exhibition of twenty one of my paintings at the Washington, DC Temple Visitors' Center. This collection spans ten years of my work visiting and revisiting on and off this series of images which always seems to draw me back to it as I paint other series concurrently. Therefore, what you are seeing is somewhat of a visual journal, a commentary as it were, in visual form, to my reactions to the scriptures, not necessarily confined to the New Testament, but more or less, the moments of inspiration that come through the lens of a mother, an artist, with an LDS perspective.
While many of the pieces are new, it was wonderful to retrieve on loan some older pieces from clients, including the piece Flight from the Museum of Church History and Art just for this exhibition (Purchase Prize Winning piece from the 8th International Art Competition for the LDS Church, now part of the permanent collection @ the Church History Museum). This is the first time that nearly every piece (minus a few) from this series has been in one place at one time. So it was especially mind boggling for me for me to see the whole body of works, side by side, kind of like having all my children come home for a reunion.
And why, oh why would I keep painting this series which has few scant verses in the New Testament to describe the childhood of Jesus Christ? And why am I still painting it? And yes, you guessed it, this exhibition is not a finite one. This exhibition represents work only to date. And in fact it does not include the drawings and studies which go back even further, over 20 years worth of my exploration of the theme of Mother and Child.
The only explanation that I can give as to my fascination with the subject matter is two-fold: I have a fascination with Art History (being half of my major) and I feel a connection to iconic imagery such as the Mother and Child image and universal metaphors; and secondly, I paint from the perspective of a mother and I always wondered at Mary's choice role to be the mother of the Savior. Being a mother is still relevant to me and may always be. In short, I may never conclude this series. In these paintings I tried to imagine what kind of an experience it might have been raising this extraordinary boy, knowing that her child would be the destined Messiah. That very notion fueled the whole series of images, informed by my own experience as a mother of four children, the story of their own lives still being written with so much potential before them, each having a divine purpose.
I was fascinated, imagining the ordinary moments, the moments in between the moments. So much of our earthly life is comprised of ordinary little unscripted moments; and every now and then, during small moments of repose, there might be "aha," moments. These are often small glimpses into the true divine nature of the Savior; these moments that might have only been known in the heart of his mother and maybe of his earthly father, Joseph. Well, at least I let these notions fuel the imagery.
Therefore, moments of beholding with spiritual eyes are also the moments on which I focus, and eye contact is key to many of the images: as Joseph sees Mary's true role as the mother of the Son of God; when the Wisemen first behold the boy Messiah; when Mary and Joseph perceive 12 year old Jesus in the Temple conversing with the doctors in his true role as the true Minister, the Son of God; when we see Boy Jesus as the true Prince, the King of Kings, while riding a humble beast of burden in Egypt.
Of course my experience raising my 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys have inspired much of the imagery. My sons at their current ages in particular gave me great inspiration for these images. My sons are age 12 and 17. You will find that I have depicted the Savior at these ages as more or less a commentary about my own feelings of awe and wonder at the priesthood which my sons hold.
While one might think it is presumptuous to suppose or project my interpretation of the childhood of Christ based on the scant information and scripture in the New Testament on the young Savior's life, my disclaimer is to state that many of these images are not meant to be a literal events per se in the Savior's life, but my interpretation of many nondescript, ordinary moments. Certainly, I did my research to authenticate costumes, places, artifacts, lifestyle, and situational veracity. Nevertheless, the images were not driven by narrative so much as by metaphor and symbols which gave me a lot of material with which to conceptualize the images. While I am certain several of these images did not literally happen per se, they are all symbolic or they foreshadow the young Savior's future mission: reference to the cross that He might one day carry: or the triumphal entry into Jerusalem; reference the olive tree, the symbol of the House of Israel; the reference to Palms feature, etc.
My next disclaimer about this collection included in the exhibition, is that it is not the entire collection. Several existing paintings are not included in the show because one, for instance, is in Sweden or in another state. But it is noteworthy to mention that this collection might not be under one roof at one time again as is, maybe in part, but this is a large exhibition. Many paintings will be returned to their disparate owners in different locations at the conclusion of the exhibition. In short, being an open-ended series, I may add more images as they strike me. I have not even attempted to paint the images chronologically in terms of the Boy Savior's age. I have skipped around in the age of the Savior as images have come to me. What you do not see is for instance, a definitive Nativity scene. It is still on my to-do list. I have been planning it for some time, but as you can see from the many image below, I may make several studies and attempts before I finalize the image. The Nativity image is on the horizon amongst other images, if there is time in my lifetime to paint them all.
For now, I hope you enjoy viewing the images below. It has been quite a journey to paint them, on and off over the past 10 years.
Below are videos: the Exhibition Documentary of the making of the series of images, the Opening Fireside (which also has the documentary in it), and the Live Musical Performance of "Prayer for Emmanuel," composed for the exhibition. And newly added is a Virtual Tour of the Exhibition. Please do not gloss over the video below of the original special musical number, "Prayer for Emmanuel" performed for the Fireside at the Exhibition Opening by the Stone Bridge Jazz Choir. I specially commissioned young and talented composer, Thomas Fairholm to write the a cappella piece, "Prayer for Emmanuel" for the video documentary which is an integral part of the exhibition display. The music is set to lyrics which I penned for the exhibition; my intent, along with Thomas' vocal composition, was to capture the spirit of the images. So penned a Psalm-like prayer, with many familiar phrases from the scriptures and many different names for the Savior, who also happen to be Mary's little son. It is a plea of protection over this young Savior until the full fruition of his mission. I was so grateful for Thomas, musically mature beyond his 17 years, who created such a stunningly beautiful piece, akin to a boys choir sound which perfectly captured the pureness and innocence of a Young Boy Savior. It is not often that I get to work on such cool collaborations where the elements are in perfect sync. Please do not miss seeing him conduct and sing in the ensemble, so click above. You will be moved, astonished and you'll scratch your head. He wrote it barely before he turned 17.
In addition, I have also posted some still images from the making of the exhibition, as well as images of the pieces themselves.
NEW! A Video Virtual Tour above of the exhibition in the space. It's like you are there without being there. It will be rare to ever see this entire body of work under one roof at one time again.
Video Documentary above of the making of the series, the Early Years of the Savior, a 10 year journey. Filmed and edited by Jessica Siswick.
Fireside address above given by Rose Datoc Dall at the "Why I Believe Fireside," for the opening of the exhibition, "Jesus Once Was a Little Child": Images from the Early Years of the Savior, Sunday June 16, 2013, Washington DC Temple Visitors' Center. Bonus footage included.
Special musical number and public debut of an original composition above, "Prayer for Emmanuel,"performed by the Stone Bridge High School Jazz Choir, commissioned for the exhibition video, composed and conducted by Thomas Fairholm, lyrics by Rose Datoc Dall (adapted by Thomas Fairholm), Sunday June 16, 2013.
"Behold the Handmaid," oil on canvas, 36" x 60", 2013
"Behold the Handmaid," is one of the largest in the exhibition, standing 6.5' tall framed. In this depiction above, Mary is looking up, beholding the angel Gabriel as he announces to her that she is to be the mother of the Savior. Faithfully submitting her will to God, she declares in Luke Ch. 1 “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Mary is shown with a vessel, symbolizing the chosen vessel to bring forth the Son of God into the world. Though it was foretold that Christ would come through her line, the stem of Jesse, that fact should not be taken for granted. Mary put herself in the path of inspiration by living worthily. She needed to be a pure vessel to fulfill her role as the mother of the Son of God.
Also shown above are the preliminary drawing and small oil study, including a close-up of the painting.
The depiction in the painting above, "Mary and Joseph," is the moment when Joseph beholds Mary for the first time after he receives the message from the angel that the Christ child would be born. He sees her with new eyes as he realizes her divine role to bear the child who would be the Messiah.
This painting was the first painting that was created in the ‘Early Years of the Savior’ series. It began the exploration of the concept of “beholding”: having eyes to see things as they really are spiritually. This concept would feature throughout the entire series.
Journey to Elisabeth’s II, 30" x 40", 2012. This image is another moment in between the moments. Mary is making the journey of about 80-85 miles to the hill country of Judea to see her kinswoman, Elisabeth, who is also with child with John the Baptist. While Mary likely would have traveled with other travelers on this journey, Mary is shown alone in the image to suggest she is alone with her thoughts, surrounded by a field of green, pondering the secret knowledge which she kept in her heart that she would be the Mother of the Savior. Above, a preliminary drawing study is also shown.
"Mary and Elisabeth," 48" x 30", 2013.
In the painting "Mary & Elisabeth" above, Mary is shown with her kinswoman, Elisabeth at the time of Elisabeth’s confinement during her pregnancy. Visually the women appear almost as one unit with their drapery flowing together to suggest the solidarity in their parallel roles, both mothers being called to bear children through miraculous means. Mary’s babe was the long awaited Messiah, foretold in the scriptures by the prophets that He would be the Redeemer of the world. Similarly, John the Baptist, the son of Elisabeth was called as one of the greatest prophets to help prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Christ. Both the womens’ missions and the sons’ missions were to occur concurrently. Both women were to endure raising their children in exile. Both would be the mothers of martyrs. Both would be no stranger to sorrows.
The billowing clouds in the background represent a foreboding of trials ahead, although Mary looks on hopefully. Both are unaware that in a short time, their babes’ lives would be in imminent peril with Herod’s decree to slaughter all children age two and under. Neither are they aware that Zacharias, Elisabeth’s husband would soon be martyred in the Temple as he tried to conceal the whereabouts of his son, John, during the slaughter of the innocents. They are not aware that they will have to flee and live in hiding; neither are they aware of the eventual mission each child would have to bear, nor the sorrows which they must endure.
The prickly thistles along the bottom also allude to the trials and tribulations the women would endure, even that sword that would “pierce through [Mary’s] own soul” (Luke 2:35), as she would witness the sacrifice of her own Son. The milk thistle, prevalent throughout the Mediterranean, which thrives in the wilderness, is also the symbol for Mary, called St. Mary’s thistle. The flower became a symbol of Mary as the white bands that travel through the veins of the plant are said to be ‘Mother Mary’s milk’ as she fed her child on the flight to Egypt.
"Study of the Presentation at the Temple," 6" x 12", 2013.
This image above, which is the smallest in the collection, is a study of Mary presenting her infant Son in the Temple as prescribed by Judaic custom. It is in the Temple where Joseph and Mary encounter Simeon and Anna the Prophetess who instantly recognize the babe as the long awaited Messiah.
"Mary and Child," 24" x 12", 2012
"Hope of Israel" captures a small and intimate everyday moment between a mother and child, although it was originally intended to include the Wise Men in this image. The name of this piece, “Hope of Israel,” comes from a familiar hymn; however the context is used very differently in the song in which the hope of Israel is Zion’s army. But in the context of this painting, Christ is the hope of Israel, the hope of all nations who will save the world.
"King of Kings," 15" x 30", 2013.
In "King of Kings," the viewer’s perspective in this painting is above the shoulders of the Wise Men who came to worship the Boy Messiah. This depiction is at the moment of beholding the Savior for the first time, one of three different depictions of the same moment.
Preliminary color studies are also shown above, an exploration in capturing the right expression of the Boy Savior's face.
"Escape by Night," 36" x 24", 2011.
"Escape by Night," 36" x 26", 2011, is a nighttime scene where Joseph, after being warned by an angel in a dream of Herod’s plot to kill the child Messiah, was instructed to take Jesus and His mother and flee by night to Egypt. Joseph without hesitation did as the angel bid, uprooting and moving them to a foreign land, departing with haste at the impending danger. It is a testament to his character and worthiness to be the steward and protector of this holy family.
"Flight," 54" x 54", 2008. Purchase Prize Winner of the 8th International Art Competition of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, part of the permanent collection at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, UT.
"Flight," 54" x 54", 2008. This image is a daytime depiction of Joseph, Mary and the Boy Jesus while on their flight into Egypt. The journey would have been long and difficult, between 350 to 400 miles on foot. The rocky terrain symbolizes the difficulties and trials along the journey and the ones to come. Nevertheless there is a feeling of protection in the cocoon shape of Mary’s veil. In addition, the billowing drapery has a sail-like quality as if winds of heaven accompany them on this journey. Moreover, the solid visual unit of the family in white or near white, symbolizes the white worn in the temple and the eternal nature of families. This piece is a commentary on the solemn responsibility of parents in protecting their family and heeding the commandments of the Lord without hesitation or question. Preliminary studies are included above.
Installing "Flight," for the exhibition at the DC Temple Visitors' Center. Part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Church History of Art in SLC, we were able to get back this piece back on loan for the retrospective exhibition.
"Under the Canopy of Heaven," 48" x 30", 2013.
"Under the Canopy of Heaven" shows a moment of refuge in Egypt when Joseph, Mary and Jesus had escaped the slaughter of the innocents by Herod’s armies. The fabric of Mary’s billowing mantle enfolds the child in a feeling of protection.
The palms hold several layers of meaning. The palms form the canopy under which Mary and Jesus can find respite from the relentless desert heat. The date palm is also another symbol of the Tree of Life in that region; the date palms often found in oases offering food and shelter from the sun. The palms represent the protection of heaven not only during Jesus’ exile, but during His growing years before Jesus would one day fulfill His mission. In addition, the palms are a kingly symbol, used to show homage to kings, and the palms in this image foreshadow His future triumphal entry into Jersualem. As a Latter-day reference, the palms have Temple significance: Joseph Smith, in 1836 in his dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland temple, D& C 109:76 & 78, Joseph mentioned palms in the spirit of the Hosanna shout. “That our garments may be pure, that we may be clothed upon with robes of righteousness, with palms in our hands, and crowns of glory upon our heads, and reap eternal joy for all our sufferings… with acclamations of praise, singing Hosanna to God and the Lamb!”
"Mary and Son," oil on canvas, 28" x 22", 2013.
|Every piece that includes Mary interacting with Jesus has an aspect of wonder that a mother feels for the worth of her child, full of longing for safety and protection for her Son. Christ is depicted in "Mary and Son," not as an infant but a toddler, possibly during the Egypt years. The image, while similar in format to an icon, is a reinterpretation of a mother & child in a contemporary style. Preliminary studies included above. The far left image is a pen and ink concept doodle done at Church.|
"Young Prince in Egypt," 40" x 30", 2013.
The term “Prince of Egypt” is often associated with the ancient prophet, Moses. However, it was Moses who was in the similitude of the Savior, the true Prince who shall come out of Egypt. Jesus and His family are depicted in "Young Prince in Egypt" during the exile years in Egypt. Perhaps they are returning to Nazareth. The concept of paradox drives this piece: the King of Kings, Governor, Counselor, the Mighty God versus the tiny child astride a humble beast of burden, not a heroic steed. This depiction upon the donkey also foreshadows the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, a moment where He was hailed as the Son of God. Preliminary drawing are included.
"Young Son of Man and Mother," 24" x 36", 2011.
Preliminary drawings are also shown above, including a very early concept drawing of the concept from 1988, 23 years previous to the painting's actual execution, in which a teenage Boy Christ is shown. Ultimately, I chose a younger Boy Christ for this image, mostly because my model for Boy Christ was a younger boy and I at that time did not have a teenage stand-in. Only subsequently did I have a teenage model as shown in "Young Carpenter."
"Shouldering Burdens," is another father-and-son depiction full of parallel and foreshadowing. Parallel postures suggest the shadowing Jesus would have done while learning the trade of His earthly father, Joseph the carpenter. One can easily surmise that Joseph was a righteous and worthy Father, and Jesus very likely shadowed Joseph in example. In the image, each bear a burden respective to their size, and this image foreshadows the cross that the adult Jesus would have to bear as Savior of the world.
Vine Video of Rose Datoc Dall painting "Shouldering Burdens," 2013.
"About His Father's Business," 30 x 40", 2012.
In "About His Father's Business," a twelve-year-old Christ is found in the Temple at Jerusalem after three days of being missing while He and His parents went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. He was found by his parents after a frantic search, in the house of the Lord, conversing with doctors, "both hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers." (Luke 2: 46 &47). There is a stark contrast of His youthful face and penetrating gaze amidst a sea of heads of wise doctors as they engage Him in an intellectual and scriptural discourse. He clearly was not intimidated by their academic knowledge and He managed to astonish them with His understanding, a testament to His true identity as the Son of God.
"Return from the Temple," 48" x 36", 2013.
“Return from the Temple” is another depiction of a moment in between the moments; in this case, the moment is that following the discovery in the Temple of their twelve year old, even Jesus who had gone missing for three days. As parents are prone to do, they reproved the young, Jesus, but He simply stated back that He was “about [his] Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). Returning from the temple grounds, Jesus subjects himself to his parents. Each parent shown here is very likely having thoughts of relief mingled with consternation and wonder as they wend their way back home from Jerusalem.
The three days where the Boy Jesus was lost foreshadow the three ominous days in the tomb following His Crucifixion and death. But just as the Boy Jesus was restored to His parents after three dark days of being lost, the adult Jesus, having fulfilled His mission as the sacrifice for the sins of the world, would later be restored from death through the glorious Resurrection.
"The Root and the Offspring of David," 72" x 48", 2013.
The olive tree is the symbol of the house of Israel, which includes all of God’s children. The harvest represents the gathering of Israel in the last days as prophesied throughout the scriptures. Christ is the root and the offspring of David; the beginning and the end; He is the Lord of the Harvest. This image stands as a foreshadowing of Christ’s role as the Master of the harvest.
Moreover, the olive tree is rich in symbolism and deeply a part of the Mediterranean culture. Apart from its obvious dietary contribution, the olive tree is also viewed as a Tree of Life of sorts in that region; the olive branch is a symbol of peace; olive oil is used in priestly anointing; lower grades of the olive oil were used for the burning of oil lamps; and olive oil is used as a salve for healing.
“I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (Revelations 22:16).