By Alex Haunty
My name is Alex Haunty, and I’m an artist. I have been asked to reflect on how the ARE WE THERE YET conference influenced me. The conference has made me think more deeply about the role that my faith plays in the creation of my art.
Just what does this mean? How do my faith and beliefs guide me in deciding what I am going paint? It can vary from piece to piece. Some works are obvious. For example, a painting of the Nativity Scene shows clearly that piece sprang directly from my Christian beliefs. With other paintings the connection takes a bit more to figure out how my faith has influenced them.
With the painting Bold and Courageous, which was part of a six-painting commission for the American Family Children’s Hospital/ UW Health Hospital and Clinics, the influence took longer for me to understand. The colors I chose are cheerful. The yellows in the petals remind me of God’s light. That light symbolizes to me God’s presence and hope and joy. It reminds me that God is always there providing comfort and love to all who are in need while in the hospital. The center of the flower is filled with varying shades of green and blue dots. The bright colors represent my thankfulness for the life God has given me. In the beginning the inspiration for the composition came from the work of Georgia O’Keefe, but the colors came from my belief that God is there with us and to remind us to be bold, daring, and brave to face those times that are hard and discouraging. This understanding came from my thinking about the title, Bold and Courageous. That is when I realized how my faith was guiding me in the creation of this painting. Sometimes it is even tougher to recognize just where my beliefs and faith enters into the mix. I have had my own healing journey where being bold and courageous was important to have to get through the hard times.
When I started working on the painting Inspiring the Community, I first thought of doing a painting of the Wisconsin state capitol. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something completely different. I took a photo of the Overture Center for the Arts on State Street in Madison that really caught my eye. This was to become my next painting. Like I do with all of my paintings, I used bright vivid colors to express life, hope, and joy in the world. Often, I just run with an idea and the thought of the role of my faith is not a big part of it at first. It becomes clearer to me when it starts to take shape. When doing a color study for Inspiring the Community, I didn’t like the original colors that were in the photo I took. They didn’t show how I felt about the scene. I wanted to express the feelings that I have for the community I live in. Even though I am not always aware of it, this is where my beliefs in God and Jesus come into the picture. I went back to my bright vivid colors to give the painting the life I saw in it. I even went so far as to put myself in the painting. This was to acknowledge the calling God has for me to use my abilities to offer opportunities to others that I have been blessed with in my life.
Before attending the CIVA conference, when I was painting, I would not always be aware of the role of my faith in my art. After attending, I think more about the role of my faith right from the beginning. When I consider the subject, I keep my beliefs and faith in mind. For instance, I find myself praying about what to paint and what is the meaning behind the subject I have chosen. This also helps me in choosing the colors I will use. The colors have to work with the meaning of the subject.
Many have said that something special that God has given me is the ability to pick a color out of my heart and to use it without always understanding the reason for it. People who had gone to school for art have mentioned that my color choice is unique and is what grabs people’s attention. I think it is important for me to acknowledge that God has given me something in my spirit that responds in color and that is directly from his heart.
In the past, I mostly saw my faith being a part of the process as I thought of a title. This has always been the point where I have been very well aware of how my beliefs and faith play into my artwork. From now on I will pay more attention to being aware of how my faith and beliefs inspire the art work I make. During this on-going process I continue to talk about my thoughts and creative process with my art mentor and creative team.
Alex began making art during his transition program from Middleton High School. A local artist, Cathy Ostrom, thought Alex might be able to paint and volunteered to show him how. With the sales from his art, Alex took his classmates and friends from Best Buddies to theater performances. He soon founded Alex’s Haunty’s Theater and Arts Fund, Inc., a nonprofit organization to promote access to the arts for people with disabilities through an integrated arts community model. Alex recently graduated from the Cutting Edge program. To find out more about Alex, visit inspiringartbyalex.com.