Jalaliyyih Quinn – Artist of the Month of Núr (Light) Interview

Photograph taken by Maureen Burkhart 2006

Jalaliyyih Quinn is a professional artist working every day in her studio, Cantatacarmel, in Gallup, New Mexico. She was born in Washington DC.  and grew up in Bethesda Maryland. She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with an MFA in painting and drawing. Her interest is with art, science and the way both disciplines intersect with each other and in that process mirror many of the great religious – spiritual principals of the world. For more information about this extraordinary artist bio and her fascinating travels, click here.  In the meantime, I asked her some questions and these are her replies regarding her art.

Click any of the images to enlarge and open in ‘viewer’.  

All Things Baha’i:  At what time in your life did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?


Series ‘Prayers from Vermont’ no. 11

In 1945-46 Knoxville Tennessee, my father had gone to Europe for an international conference at the close of WW2; my mother, older brother and I had gone to Knoxville to his parents home. I loved that time and remember parts of it clearly even though I was a small child.  One day, as I remember, because I was three coming up on or just turned four, I was sitting in a cot with blankets and such in the living room making a book. I loved to make little books with Scotch Tape and I would cut pieces of paper and then tape them together. Well, that day I wanted to draw a horse since it was common to see horses back then. But, how to begin? I was thinking and thinking when suddenly I thought of rectangles – I did not know the word for rectangle so I called them shoe boxes.  It was in a flash that I knew that the size and shape of the shoe boxes could be changed – one for the body, another for the neck, the head and four long ones for the legs.  It was a most satisfying experience.  I added the mane and tail.  Having finished, I showed it to my mother whose jaw dropped open. She gave me and the drawing such praise. That was a definitive moment!


I loved drawing and painting; I always had since I could hold crayons and by the age of 17, I accepted who I already was and always had been…an artist.


All Things Baha’i:  What are some of the Baha’i Writings that have inspired you as an artist? 


This question has such a full answer that it is difficult for me to answer! Here is a shorter answer…

If I can limit it to two passages, the first is where Baha’u’llah uses the term Fashioner on page 141 in Gleanings
Fashion is the word that the arts come from – in Farsi or Arabic that word is ‘Saneh’.
“Through the mere revelation of the word “Fashioner,”issuing forth from His lips and proclaiming His attribute to mankind,such power is released as can generate, through successive ages,all the manifold arts which the hands of man can produce.” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 141)
These words coming from the Manifestation of God are the most wonderful affirmation that art is a gift of God, an attribute of God.  The art impulse within people is divine in origin as is the human mind. 
Heal The World

The other passage, too long to quote, is from Tablet of Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom) on the nature of creation.  Here is an excerpt from these passages which have been inspirational for years and years.
“That which hath been in existence had existed before,but not in the form thou seest today. The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient.  These two are the same, yet they are different.  Thus doth the Great Announcement inform thee about this glorious structure.  Such as communicate the generating influence and such as receive its impact are indeed created through the irresistible Word of God which is the Cause of the entire creation,while all else besides His Word are but the creatures and the effects thereof.  Verily thy Lord is the Expounder, the All-Wise.”   (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 140)  
This passage creates in me both wonder and confirmation about the beginning of the universe.  It leads me into the world of physics and makes me look for parallels in science to the writings of Baha’u’llah.  My responses to this passage are many and can be seen in my paintings.

Series “Quattro” – one of Jalaliyyih’s best works ever:  Quattro is about the 4 basic forces of the universe which touches into the Faith where in the Tablet of Hikmat, Baha’u’llah tells us to study nature and that it unfolds before us.
All Things Baha’i:  What inspiration do you draw upon for your creations?

Inspiration comes from many sources.  It is important for an artist to first of all know one’s self, so that we know what forces are in play on the inside of our psyche. Inspiration can come from reading a prayer. I pray before I paint and ask Baha’u’llah what he would like me to paint. My father took me into the world of physics and when he did it was magical. Now today much inspiration comes from parallels in physics and the Baha’i writings. One morning, I was reading the Fire Tablet and the series SACRIFICE visually came to mind. The series is posted below.  Presently, it is not on my website. To read more about what inspires Jalaliyyih click here.

Series ‘Sacrifice’ click to open gallery.

All Things Baha’i:  How has your art work helped you to teach the Faith? 
1991 solo art exhibition opening at Lu Xun Academy of Fine Art

I am provided the opportunity to share the Baha’i Faith when asked about the inspiration behind a particular art piece.  As an example, my paintings have been best received when living in ​China.  ​At my first solo exhibition at a prestigious art academy​ the President of the art academy asked me to tell about the meaning of my work. I replied that there was religious meaning (In China one does not speak openly about religious meaning).  The President then replied that it was good to talk about one’s artwork and the inner meanings ​and that I had complete freedom to speak! So, I did and that day perhaps 200 people heard about the Baha’i Faith, the nine pointed star and the unity of all of humanity.

Too The Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, series of 5



All Things Baha’i:  Can you share with us one of your most memorable experiences while sharing your art with others.


Jalaliyyih with her students in Sichuan, China 1993

In retrospect, at the second solo exhibition at that same art academy, I had three galleries:  One had my Chinese brush paintings, one had my oil paintings, and one had my watercolors which are created as series and were dealing with themes of sacrifice, unity, and equality of men and women.  In those years, I was living at another college but had the showing at the art academy. At the college where I was living there were 9 young men from Pakistan.  I was their mother away from home and often they would come to visit me, or I would visit them. They came to the opening of the show. After seeing all of the paintings, one of the young men said to me, “Those paintings there,”  pointing to the oils and my Chinese paintings, “they are yours; they belong to you. But, those paintings in that gallery,” pointing to the watercolors in their own gallery, “they belong to the world.”

All Things Baha’i wants to thank Jalaliyyih and express our gratitude for taking the time to speak to us.  Want to see more of her exquisite artwork?   https://www.jalaliyyihquinn.org/
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