Emily Buckley, editor in chief

Approximately four years ago, artist Mike Malm, of Wellsville, was at a CAPSA (Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse) fundraiser hosted by the Malouf Foundation when he heard a domestic violence survivor talk about her experience and ways she grew as a result of CAPSA services. He recalls her saying something like, “Out of the ashes, I will rise with a fire in my soul.”

“I thought, ‘That sounds like an amazing painting.’” He put the thought in the notes on his phone, not knowing if he’d ever get to act on it.

Two years later, in 2021, with the financial support of the Charis Legacy Foundation, CAPSA opened a new 9,575-square-foot wing to its main office. At the ribbon cutting for the wing, CAPSA Chief Executive Officer Jill Anderson said, “I’m reminded about how many people it takes to make our work possible. This building is not just a building. It provides us the ability to expand all of our services — to do life-saving, life-changing work. This building allows us to expand and provide more services across all of our programming.”

The Dave and Lynette Jenkins Family, who founded the Charis Legacy Foundation, wanted to go further and add a beautiful piece of art for the new wing, so they commissioned Mike to create a painting and have it on loan to CAPSA for display in the building.

“The ideas had been in my mind for a couple of years, so when the opportunity finally presented itself, [it] just fell into place,” Mike said.

Photo by Brittany Cascio

From concept and collaboration to unveiling was a detailed process. Mike says it goes from a rough pencil sketch to a rough watercolor sketch, to taking hundreds of photos of models, to piecing together the images in Photoshop to match his vision before actually getting to work on painting the final piece.

“There were times I had to put it aside to let ideas marinate and work toward expressing the narrative we wanted,” Mike said. “My job is to work on [a painting] until I feel it … If I don’t feel it, no one else is going to feel it, so I’m really conscious of the colors I’m using, the tones I’m using, how the lines move through the piece; all of that is really important. I feel it out as I’m working, and I know when it feels right … that’s when I’m done.”

Mike says the piece, titled From the Ashes, is a story about overcoming darkness and is full of symbolism.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to find such a great home for this painting at CAPSA, and we are so grateful to Mike for his vision and talent in creating such a beautiful artistic work,” Lynette Jenkins, co-founder of the Charis Legacy Foundation said. “It is perfect for CAPSA because the painting is a beautiful representation of a person being able to rise above the hard things in their lives and take the steps that will help them move forward to a better place. It also represents how the help of others is important in a victim’s progression to recovery. This painting gives one an immediate feeling of hope! Our desire is that this is what those who visit CAPSA will feel as they receive help from the services provided.

We appreciate the dedicated staff and others involved with CAPSA and their work in providing a safe haven for victims to find healing and hope in their lives.”

Mike says a piece like this is a lot of work, but it also comes with much satisfaction. “I can’t even imagine what some people feel or what they are dealing with when they come to CAPSA,” Mike said. “I just hope this painting can help inspire. I hope people can see themselves coming out of this and that it’s going to be OK — that they have a lot of people around them at CAPSA who love them and are there for them. That there is hope. That they aren’t alone. If a glimpse of the painting can give a little spark of, ‘Maybe it’s going to be OK,’ then I’ve done my job.”

Photo by Heather Palmer

Photo courtesy of CAPSA

Photo by Brittany Cascio

As you move through the painting, Mike explains that the rising figure is the same woman who was holding the child. The child is now a toddler. The figure by her side is assisting her upward — an advocate helping her upward toward her goals.

The figure on the right side of the piece, holding the basket, is more concealed. “She is charity,” Mike said. “Like the donors who supported this painting, they want to contribute without recognition. People who will just give and don’t want recognition. She represents people who offer sustenance and physical help.”

Mike points out that the painting is full of additional symbolism, including flowers coming up through the ashes on the ground. “With all that destruction, the ground is fertile and ready for new life. The blossoms start to grow and eventually reach full bloom because they have been nurtured and cared for and are now giving back, with their beauty, to the people who offered nourishment. It is a symbol of overcoming and giving back.”

Mike says he believes people could find themselves in different elements of the painting at different times in their lives, whether they are one coming to CAPSA in despair or coming as a helper.

James Boyd, CAPSA’s chief development officer, who works closely with individuals and organizations who support CAPSA, said, “Individuals who experience domestic violence or sexual abuse often feel isolated and afraid. This is one of the traps of abuse — feeling no one cares, leaving them trapped and alone. Survivors quickly realize that CAPSA’s caseworkers and advocates will stand by them in their darkest hours, helping them find their footing on their path. This painting communicates a far broader level of support. It illuminates that there are individuals throughout our community who care about them, believe in them, and see a path to a future without abuse. ”

To learn more about the painting and its symbolism, visit capsa.org/fromtheashes/.

Prince Gallery is selling framed prints as a fundraiser for CAPSA. Because Mike Malm gifted the digital rights to CAPSA and Prince Gallery is printing/framing at cost, more than 75% of the purchase price is a donation to CAPSA.

Visit Prince Gallery to see “From the Ashes” by Mike Malm in person and purchase your copy at 2600 North Main Ste 106, North Logan.

Photo by Mike Johnson

Consider Donating

When you donate to CAPSA, you are supporting the more than 1,900 women, men, and children who receive direct services, including  shelter, court advocacy, housing, and clinical therapy each year, and backing CAPSA’s prevention program, which works to reduce violence through education to more than 18,000 participants each year. Please consider donating by visiting capsa.org/donate/

A Story of Hope

From the Ashes was designed for CAPSA’s central stairway with an unfolding story as you approach and travel up the stairs. Mike explained that as someone, whether a client, advocate, or supporter of CAPSA, approaches the stairway, one of the first things they will see in the painting is a woman holding a baby in despair (on the lower left side). “You kind of see the beginning of her journey,” Mike said. “There are ashes at her feet, with a burnt landscape behind her.” The scene illustrates what it feels like to be in a place where you may wonder if there is any hope. “Then you see a woman behind her, holding a candle,” he said. “The candle illuminates and catches her face. The woman in despair sees that light and recognizes it as the light of hope.”

Meet the Artist

Photo by Brittany Cascio

Michael Malm lives in Cache Valley with his wife, Juanita. They have four children. His serious study began under Del Parson at Dixie College, where he completed his associate’s degree. He then went on to Southern Utah University, where he had the opportunity to study with Perry Stewart, and completed his formal education at Utah State University where he received a master of fine arts degree studying under Glen Edwards. Workshops have also played an important part of his development studying with such master painters as Richard Schmid, Burton Silverman, Daniel Gerhartz, Quang Ho, Ron Hicks, Michael Workman, and Jim Norton. Mike started his career as a portrait painter and then as a gallery artist before spending the last decade working on biblical and narrative works, including many pieces for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.