Rose Datoc Dall is one of those brilliant women who seems to have it all figured out. She’s the proud mother of four great children. She’s a gifted musician. She’s beautiful and confident. She devotes free time to church callings and volunteer work at the local high school. She’s a fan of Segullah (and was the featured artist of our Fall 2006 issue!). And her latest success? A Purchase Award at the Church History Museum’s Eighth International Art Competition — a competition that received nearly 1,100 entries from 44 countries.
Here is a portion of Segullah’s recent conversation with Rose.
You’re a full-time mother and a part-time artist. Is this the career path you always envisioned for yourself?
I’ve always liked to draw and paint, but I originally went into filmmaking. I did end up getting my degree at Virginia Commonwealth University in art history and fine arts — I just kept getting rerouted to my original love, which is drawing and painting.
I joined the Church when I was 19, so that changed my career track. I got married during my senior year, then six months later I got pregnant and I was thrust into motherhood. I think in the back of my mind I knew I never wanted to be a career mom, but joining the church and getting married and having children so soon altered my expectations. But it was all good because it was all meant to be.
As a successful example of working while raising children, I’m sure you’re often asked how you balance it all.
I’ve had conversations with other LDS women artists about how to factor art into your life when you have young children — and I think I just fumble through it like everybody else does! After I had my first daughter, I backed off from working and tried to fit my art in whenever I could — and that wasn’t very often. Having a child in general is challenging. Nobody gave me a handbook on expectations. You’re exhausted just trying to be a mom. My husband was in grad school, and we were balancing that plus Church callings.
All my kids are in school now, so my time is used a little bit differently. But I still don’t do it full time. The time goes by just like that — you fill it with visiting teaching, household things, taking kids to appointments. The best way I can describe my life is a series of interruptions. Finding a big block of time for art is not always possible. It’s an hour here or a couple of stolen hours of energy at night. I used to think there was a magic formula to fit it in every day. But you can’t wear the artist’s smock all the time. There are periods when I just can’t get behind the canvas.
You’ve had your work published in magazines like the Ensign and you’ve won major awards for your paintings. What are some of the religious subjects you devote your time to?
A lot of the pieces I do with the Church in mind take months and months of research. I started a study on the likeness of Joseph Smith years ago and it’s ongoing. That could mean reading about his life or listening to devotionals about him and his character, reading studies based on his familial resemblance — I even built a clay reconstruction bust of Joseph Smith. This series is in a lot of ways about me wanting to get to know the prophet. I have been unsatisfied with his likeness in most paintings. I want to take a scientific look and leave no stone unturned to get a likeness that is consistent. I think his likeness is elusive for a reason — it makes people want to explore the prophet
I also have a series on Adam and Eve that’s about mortality and the significance of the temples and reading between the lines. It’s about what Adam and Eve agreed to do.
The beautiful painting that was recently purchased by the Church came from your series on Mary, Joseph, and the boy Christ. What is this piece about?
It’s from a mother’s point of view in a way — it’s a commentary about parenting in a lot of ways. Yes, it’s about the boy Savior and his flight into Egypt, but I like to find more metaphors. I’m a parent of teenagers and I want so much to protect my kids. Sometimes you actually have to move them out of harm’s way and that’s what the flight to Egypt is all about. They literally moved the child and the family out of danger, so sometimes that’s what you have to do — you have to tell your kids, “Come ye out from the wicked.”
The painting is now part of the museum’s permanent collection. I don’t win awards that often and I was surprised when they called. I invested my soul into the painting and spent so much time preparing, and I didn’t really expect to get anything out of it. It’s the biggest award I’ve ever received.