Lori Nelson: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Monster.

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Are You There, God? It’s Me, Monster, 2015 Oil on wood with resin finish 20 x 20 in.

Credere Volo (I Want to Believe)

In my current series, Credere Volo (I Want to Believe), the imagery recalls the almost fetishistic religious works from the past of beautiful young children with rapturous gazes in the throes of fervent supplication.

This is the sort art that fascinated me as a Mormon child growing up in a religious -and somewhat artless- household. I would find the reproductions of devotional art and photography in the family Bible and other religious texts, and gaze into them, falling into them hard. Such beauties! These wonderful children were appealing to me for their purity while all the time also being shame-inducing because I knew I would never believe so fully and gorgeously.

Searching, I could not leave them alone. I would return to them over and over, pleasing my parents with an apparent interest in the Word. But it was those praying kids with their upturned eyes, beautiful skin, and lacy clothing that held the untouchable glamour for me. Part of me knew they had been dressed up like dolls and coached into those prayerful positions. But the yearning to be as good as them still lingered even though I questioned their, and my, devotion. That was perhaps the flaw in my belief. I could not believe in their belief and, later, my own.

Throughout the years, I have met others with another marvelous belief: that in the supernatural world with its many wondrous beings. I have met supporters and hunters of the Yeti, conspiracy theorists who are chasing the alien, and those who can reach out and speak with the deceased. I have stared at these believers with the same childlike wonder and envy that I held for my tiny religious peers and rivals of old.  I recognize the desire, indeed, the passion of these believers to display and share this otherworldly belief. These believers have been called to spread their news.  It reminds me of religion, indeed, and once again, I covet this obsessive belief.

Armed with my own art now, I have set out to see what the world would look like if the aliens, ghosts, yetis and Christians combined their belief campaigns. The result is a familiar set-up: beautiful children in ecstatic prayer. This imagery, I find, is comforting and appealing to believers and non-believers alike because it is familiar. However there is a twist in the imagery that makes each painting not so easy to behold. Each child is a monster of some sort. There are human-yeti hybrids, human-cat hybrids, scaled reptilians, horned sweeties….Each prayerful being is in the act of expressing their belief in something with their hands clasped and their eyes dewy with prayerful tears.

But the subject, essentially, is the beings’ belief. This is the crux of my work these days. I do not really care what the monster-kids believe in or to whom they are praying. I only wish I could believe like that. In myself I find a deficit of belief and it is this absence that I address when I quote, in Latin, the language of religion, the X-files, saying Credere Volo/ I want to believe. Mulder chased his belief in that old television series, always erring on the side of the fantastic, hoping he could finally collect solid evidence of the fantastic. All my life I have done the same, only to find myself a hopeless non-believer armed only with a paint brush.

In this series I then wish to explore not only the belief in the fantastic, but also the fantastic believer him or herself in a mash-up that both Fox Mulder and my own mother could recognize and believe in.

Lori Nelson | Cotton Candy Machine

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Little Fever, 2014 Oil on wood with resin finish 10 x 10 in.

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Lori Nelson

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Lori Nelson – Volo Credere for the Cotton Candy Machine Photo by Aviv Zucker

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Are You Here, 2014 Oil on wood 30 x 40 in.