Art exhibit explores biblical beasts

KETCHIKAN — During January, the white walls of the Main Street Gallery will feature the large, colorful paintings by Danelle Landis, in her second gallery show titled “Mark of the Beast.”


The theme in Landis’ paintings is animals, or beasts, from the Bible, and not the “mark of the beast” as told in Revelation in reference to people. Her subjects include the four horses of the Apocalypse, the demon-possessed pigs in the New Testament, a raven released by Noah after the flood, Jonah’s whale, and the donkey ridden by Balaam as told in the Old Testament book of Numbers.

Landis, a former Ketchikan Daily News reporter, said she read the Bible from beginning to end as a teenager, and her imagination was ignited by the stories of people rising from the dead, demons cast into pigs, and a seven-headed dragon.

“I am fascinated not only with the fantastical images and stories humans have archived, but also by how we can become so familiar with them that we can grow immune to how bizarre, funny and even scary many of them are,” Landis said.

She said inspiration for the show originally came from the book of Revelation’s description of a red, seven-headed dragon with 10 horns and wearing seven crowns. She said it was difficult to draw a dragon that did not resemble dragons in “cheesy teen novels.” After months of throwing out sketch after sketch, she finally found inspiration in the devil fish - a deep sea creature with a mouth full of jagged teeth.

Another subject she struggled with was the remaining three horses of the Apocalypse. The pale horse, with its rider “named Death and Hell following close behind,” received his own giant canvas.

“I was afraid that it would look like a little girl’s picture of horses, and people would look at it and say, ‘Oh, horses galloping!’” she laughed, waving her fingers and imitating fake enthusiasm. “There were a lot of cheesy images I had to dodge so things would look interesting.”

Instead of etherial horses galloping through the woods, the three dark horses come stampeding through the mist, throwing their manes and brandishing horns.

Landis has been drawing since she was a teenager. He family lived on a sailboat and often anchored in secluded bays instead of busy marinas. To keep herself busy, she drew fantastical scenes, often copying pictures by illustrator Frank Frazetta and studying fairy tale illustrations by Edmond Dulac and Edward Detmold.

Landis went to college to study pre-veterinary medicine, but quickly switched to fine art. Even though she enjoyed the slightly whimsical and mostly dramatic paintings of Frazetta, that type of art was frowned upon because it wasn’t “fine art.” She quickly picked up the skills of more traditional fine art.

“I really liked the fine art because they helped me get the confidence and basic skills,” Landis said. “I don’t think the professors were really as down on (the whimsical art) as I thought. I was really, really insecure.”

Since college, Landis has returned to her roots in large dramatic paintings. Three pieces in her show measure at least 5 feet across. She has a few small paintings, and attempted several more to include in the show, but couldn’t get past the constraints issued by a small canvas.

“It envelopes you more,” she said. “It’s the difference between a movie screen and your TV screen at home. I feel really claustrophobic on a small canvas. I do five brush strokes and then I’m out of space.”

Landis said she began working on art for the show in May, but since the summer weather was so nice, she spend a lot of time in the garden, “feeling really guilty I wasn’t getting more work done.”

Landis created 17 paintings for the show, and each is framed simply to allow the color and texture to take the viewer’s attention.

“I want people to be curious,” Landis said. “I’m really fascinated by animals, and I want to share that with other people.”

“Mark of the Beast” will be open at Main Street Gallery until Jan. 31.


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