TEXARKANA, Ark. — Thirty-nine oil paintings, each inspired by a book from the Old Testament — that's what visitors will find at the new Danny Helms art exhibit inside the 1894 Gallery downtown.
An artist's reception will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday to kick off the exhibit, titled "Led by the Spirit," which runs until Sept. 30 and showcases Helms' personal take on Old Testament tales, ranging from "Daniel in the Den of Lions" to "Condemnation of Baal Worship."
Don't expect faithfully historic renditions of these stories. Instead, Helms has a personal touch with them.
Indeed, the brochure describes the artist's intentions: "The artist stresses the images are not intended to be historically accurate but hopes his personal view of the subject will inspire and intrigue the viewer."
In an interview, Helms explains that he's never seen another art show with this type of broad look at the Old Testament. He'd wanted to do these works for several years, sketching here and there, but for some reason this time things fell into place.
"It has taken a little over a year, about 1,500 hours," Helms said. "I'm in a position I can paint when I want to, so sometimes I would paint 10 hours a day, sometimes I might do a little one and get it done real fast. There are several large paintings. They're all oil paintings, all oils on canvas."
He sees it as a unique collection.
"Some of the subjects are very familiar that people grew up with as kids, like Daniel and the Lion's Den, things like that, but other things are unusual. They're subject matter you might not recognize right off, like the Siege of Nineveh is a big battle scene, and it's 3-foot by 4-foot, or Solomon's ships," Helms said.
They're all his interpretations, a modern take on the event. "Because no one really knows what anything looked like anyway," Helms said. He picked the Pharaoh's dream from Genesis, for example, depicting seven fat cows.
"I just picked one theme out of each book, and most of them were really easy, but then there was some that was real hard to decide what to do," Helms said, noting he wanted to convey the human qualities of these people from the Old Testament.
"They had families, they had trials, they had disappointments," Helms said. "I was trying to depict more emotions than anything else."
The paintings are in a gallery room by themselves and have provoked different emotional responses from those who've seen a sneak peek. "You kind of enter into a different world, so to speak," Helms said.
He identifies with the people he portrays. He also used his mother's image to show Queen Esther. The paintings are special to him, and none of them are for sale.
"We all have had difficult times in our lives if you've gotten to be any age at all," the artist said. "You see that in some of the paintings. The weeping prophet Jeremiah is really emotional to some people."
Helms would love to find a permanent home for the collection so the paintings remain together. He'd like to preserve these inspirational works. For this exhibit, he'll give private tours and also invites Bible classes to visit. He's also making a podcast available for visitors to hear.
"I want people to come away with their own emotional experience," Helms said.
For more information about the artist, visit DannyHelmsart.com. He's an Arkansas State University graduate and member of the Arkansas League of Artists whose work has also been shown locally at the Regional Arts Center.
(Admission is free. The 1894 Gallery is located at 105 Olive St. More info: 870-330-5003 or the 1894 Gallery page on Facebook. It's open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment.)