Artist, writer, and teacher Kirsten Beitler. Originals and prints available. Deep thoughts on the blog. Teaching studio is currently closed.

Uncomfortable Truths

January 16, 2022

We cannot change what we do not acknowledge. I am by no means an expert on race or history. I am just someone who didn’t know what I didn’t know until I needed to know it. Because it is my honor to be the mother of children of a different race than mine, placed into my hands by their first-mothers and through our open adoption arrangement, it is my privilege to have my eyes are opened on a daily basis. When I share things about race, it’s not out of a desire to be performative, to shame anyone for not understanding something, or to put myself out as some kind of leader. It’s just part of my lived experience that I believe may be helpful to people I care about.

One thing I hear regularly is “Utah is not a racist place. The (LDS) church is not racist.” Even if you believe that is true, ignoring the past or trying to rewrite it to fit the current narrative is not healing or helpful. Healing only comes from truth. Here are some truths.

-Mormon pioneers brought black slaves with them to Utah. Mormon pioneers sometimes gave slaves or their labor as part of their tithing to the church. 

-Brigham Young said, “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, page 110. 

-Slavery was made officially legal in Utah in 1852 and was not repealed until an act of Congress in 1862.

-Washington County was begun as the “Cotton Mission”. Many of the people sent here by the LDS Church to colonize this area were from the south. They brought with them their love for the area they had left, and laid it over this land in a strangely sanitized way that somehow glorified the south without acknowledging the harm that was and is unable to be untwined from the enslavement of an entire race of people. Many people in Southern Utah cannot and do not understand how their beloved “Dixie” is an identity that can and should be compassionately put to rest, as it no longer serves the growing diversity of the area. I grew up singing the songs of Dixie. I attended the local college when it still held mock slave auctions as a fundraiser. I was there when the college paid for a very large and expensive bronze of a “rebel” soldier holding the Confederate flag. This is highly entrenched in my psyche and has been very uncomfortable to see, acknowledge, and let go of.

-Utah enacted anti-miscegenation laws (interracial marriage is not legal) in 1888 and was the second to last state to repeal those laws in 1963.

-Into the late 50’s and early 60’s, even noted African American like Ella Fitzgerald were not allowed to eat at the restaurant in the Hotel Utah and were made to use the freight elevators.

-Members of the LDS Church who were POC were not allowed the blessings of the temple and priesthood that were key tenants of their faith until 1978. I was 5 years old that year.

-Depending on your age, either your parents or grandparents were alive during the civil rights struggles and they were either okay with people screaming death threats at 6 year old Ruby Bridges for trying to go to school, or they were not.

-When the federal government created MLK Day in 1986, Utah only adopted it under the name “Human Rights Day”. It was not formally recognized as a holiday to honor Dr. King until 2000. I clearly remember my school teacher (I was in high school) telling our class that we had to celebrate this holiday, but we didn’t need to make it “all about the blacks, it could be about being good to all humans”, accompanied by much eye rolling and shaking of the head.

These teachings, histories, and attitudes colored my upbringing consciously and unconsciously.  And if you grew up in Utah or Mormon, and are my age or older, especially if you’re white, when you look back, you will certainly see what I’m talking about if you want to see it.

So these truths must be acknowledged, mourned, disavowed, called out. This is how you cleanse a wound. Not by ignoring it, or pretending it didn’t really happen that way, but by cleaning out the gunk, reapplying healing balms, tenderly bandaging, protecting and keeping clean as the healing begins, learning from whatever caused the wound, taking proactive steps so that it will not happen again, especially if you and/or the system you came from was the one that caused the wounding.


It's Not Just About The Lump

December 2, 2021
I wasn't planning on publicly sharing this, but after watching a variety of different types of posts on social media yesterday (which was International Women's Day for whatever that means and whoever made that up and whatever that's supposed to fix) I decided to go ahead and share this experience I just walked through. I think it encapsulates a lot about what it's like to be a woman and I don't share it to get sympathy or attention, but because I feel like I can and most women that go through...

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Paintings from the show...In the Eye of the Beholder

April 14, 2020

In the Eye of the Beholder, 2012

Oil and gold leaf on panel

14” x 18”

I did this piece when I first found out I had the degenerative eye disease called keratoconus.

I was full of fear.

Losing my eyesight had always been one of my great terrors, and now it looked like having serious vision challenges was going to be a part of my life forever.

This painting began a series of works that turned into my first solo show, Beauty in the Eye, which was all about vision loss and eye diseases.

My family...

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Paintings from the show....What He Threw Away

April 14, 2020

That's me as a first time bride in 1995.

And that's me, divorced, in 1997 and standing next to the only time I ever showed this painting of my first ex-husband, Doug, until showing it in my solo show, Couch to Canvas.

I called it What He Threw Away.

It was an assignment in class in the style of another artist (Klimt).

I remember when I did this painting I was only a month or so out from my separation from Doug and in the middle of big pain and complete confusion. I now see how this work, even the...

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Paintings from the show....Kitty Hawk

April 14, 2020

Kitty Hawk (assemblage version), 2018

Watercolor and paper

24” x 30”

This is a portrait of Nora. Nora is a spitfire of a girl whose personality reached out to me so strongly, that I could feel it over the internet. She stands boldly in her body and I felt it was appropriate to juxtapose her in front of the hill at Kitty Hawk, which holds deep personal meaning for me as a place of bravery and discovery.

It is also an homage to all the brave girls and women who must learn to fly in the conte...

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Paintings from the show....Finding Out I'm the Sister-of-Jared (or Tight Like a Dish)

April 14, 2020

Finding Out I’m the Sister-of-Jared (or Tight Like a Dish), 2019

Oil on panel

18” x 36”

Here what it's about.

One day I was lamenting to my therapist about how I didn’t think I could take anymore, go any further; how I was feeling abandoned and broken beyond fixing.

Right in the middle of processing these feelings I had a very forceful memory come to mind of a talk I had listened to months earlier. The talk was When My Prayers Feel Unanswered, which people commonly refer to as the “fo...

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Paintings from the show....The Fire Inside Her Burned Brighter

April 14, 2020

The Fire Inside Her Burned Brighter, 1998

Oil on panel

12” x 20”

This is the oldest piece I had hanging in my solo show Couch to Canvas.

In 1997 I had returned to SUU after separating from my first husband to finish my degree in Illustration. Waiting for me there was a new art teacher, Brian Hoover, who was a visual storyteller, and the medium of oil paint which I had not previously explored much. I had originally come to school with the intent of being a teacher, children's book illustrat...

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Paintings from the show...The Process of Laying It Down and Picking It Back Up

April 14, 2020

The Process of Laying It Down and Picking It Back Up (assemblage version), 2019

Oil on panel

24” x 30”

This piece started out as a series of small watercolor studies that I did to try and reclaim and heal something.

I knew I was going to do the piece, but I wasn't sure if I would show it to anybody.
One of the scariest (and coolest) things about art is that you can't control what happens in the mind of the viewer after you put it out there. I had a very personal and specific meaning for this...

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Post Couch to Canvas Show Musings

April 14, 2020
The show is not what I originally had planned. I signed up to do it early last fall when I was feeling really good about my life, like I had the energy to execute my vision. I had solid recent works I was proud of and ideas for five new pieces in my head.
Then things got super messy again and I was in survival mode from the end of 2018 through the summer of 2019.
You know what happens when you're in survival mode? Not much. So there I was, two months out and only two of the new works done beyon...

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An Interview with The Spectrum News

August 1, 2019

Here's a little interview I did with The Spectrum News about my job making signs for Harmons and my upcoming shows.
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A Little Introduction...

Kirsten Beitler I am an florist, artist, teacher, and single mom of four boys, not necessarily in that order depending on the day! This blog is about all the things that interest me; art, relationships, friends, kids, teaching, adoption, being a Mormon, chickens, divorce, therapy, essential oils, know,totally normal stuff.
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All text and images on this blog are my property unless otherwise noted. Please, be respectful.   © Kirsten Beitler


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