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Reality

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 16, 2014

I’ve tried for months to write a post that shares with you some artwork that I just love. Every time I try to blog about it, I realize how little training or skill I have for critiquing visual art – I either draft something pretentious, or I blubber like a fool. Rather than subject you to that, I’m just going to post two pieces here – with permission of the artist – and hope that you will enjoy these as much as I do, and can perhaps even comment coherently about them.

The artist is David Habben, a Salt Lake City-based artist who goes by HabbenINK on Facebook and in his online gallery. Most of his art is fantasy – and he brings the fantastic to a few pieces of Mormon-themed art.

Two prints that I own are these:

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Yesterday, Today and Forever


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The Seer


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I like them because he makes visible ideas that would not have been visible to the eye in real time and space. I’ve looked at them for hours, identifying the men with Joseph Smith in the first image, and thinking about what it might mean that their hands are almost-but-not-quite laid on each others’ heads, and about the passage of time represented there. I’ve looked at the second image, debating the meaning of various elements and marveling how the artist has captured intangible concepts in a visual medium.

How can an artist depict reality in an unreal way, and say more about historical and religious truth than if he had followed Joseph Smith around with an iPhone? I don’t know, but he’s done it.



9 Comments »

  1. I love that these both feel sort of Arts-and-Crafts-ey (probably my all-time favorite architectural/artistic movement) and steam-punky-ey (also a kind of art I often enjoy).

    The style of the wheat stocks in particular, in the top painting, recall for me the Victorians’ obsession with old/ancient stories, which certainly found its expression (among other places) in their Arts-and-Crafts ideas. The wheat itself reminds me of how Jesus explained that he must die like a corn of wheat must die, and be buried, before it can ever bring forth life again.

    It also makes me think about how wheat has long been associated with the preparedness efforts of the Relief Society; what better way to be prepared than with ancient scripture which was planted for us over a thousand years ago?

    Comment by S — April 16, 2014 @ 8:47 am

  2. I especially like the first one because of its visual richness, with every space filled with meaningful imagery. The second one is a little too cartoony for me, but I like the idea presented in it. What does it say about me that my first thought about the feathers (intimations of divinity?) was that they were marijuana leaves? Ha!

    Comment by Elaine — April 16, 2014 @ 9:19 am

  3. I love both of these. There is so much for me to think about as I look at them.

    Comment by Karen — April 16, 2014 @ 9:27 am

  4. Really fascinating. I think my reaction to the first is more positive, and I quite like it a lot. The wheat makes me think of the Bread of Life, and when I look at the other figures, obviously one is Moroni, but the other two could be Nephi and Mormon, or perhaps one is an OT Prophet, such as Isaiah. Very likable, and likely a conversation starter.

    The second one will take me more time. Certainly, it does include elements of fantasy, and much more symbolism is involved. Keys, threads, feathers, an alignment of planets like in 2001, and the hole in the book. The style is less initially pleasing to me, and as someone who leans towards Impressionism as a preference, it’s both not real enough, or not fantastic enough (think James Christensen). Still, it is a conversation starter, for sure. Thank you for sharing. I have not heard of David Habben before.

    Comment by kevinf — April 16, 2014 @ 11:22 am

  5. Lots to take in from these wonderful pieces. Thanks for sharing. [still staring]

    Comment by David Y. — April 16, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

  6. I think your art critiquing skills are more than adequate. You articulated ideas that are not apparent to everyone, you didn’t use any artsy-jargon, and you were brief and to the point. Perfect, I’d say.

    And thank you for indulging my critique of your critique.

    Comment by MDearest — April 16, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

  7. Both very nice, and I hope he does more religious art.

    Comment by Amy T — April 16, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

  8. The 2nd one has me mesmerized! He’s not sewing, he’s untangling with keys on one end an eternal ring on the other with him all tangled in it too. Part of the book is sealed and the other has a hole he can see right through as with a seer stone. The feathers could be both from angel’s wings and tar and feathering. He kneels on the whole earth with eyes closed focused inward to the soul with the sun, moon & fiery stars behind.

    I guess that’s not critiquing as much as interpreting.

    Comment by Grant — April 16, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

  9. I was not familiar with these before, but they are intriguing. Habben not only has talent but a lot of creativity to go along with the talent.

    Comment by Maurine — April 16, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

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