Six Theological Pillars for the Art of God’s People
Now, if that’s not a daunting title, I don’t know what is. It was enough to pique my curiosity, though, and I left work early on Friday, November 7th to attend Vern Swanson’s thusly-named presentation at the Biennial Art, Belief, Meaning Symposium, Picturing the Divine, at the BYU Museum of Art.
Swanson is one of my favorite Mormon Art Curmudgeons, and not a very curmudgeonly one at that. He’s a wacky art guy, yes, but he’s downright jolly. The afternoon presentations were limited to a half hour, and unfortunately so was the culmination of the day – the panel discussion featuring Swanson, painter Brian Kershisnik, painter/professor Bruce Smith and BYU-H religion professor Keith Lane. A test in Chinese class had prevented me from attending Kershisnik’s keynote speech in the morning, and I was anxious to hear more while we had all these fantastic Mormon Art brains together in one room. But the limited time was well-spent, and I was left with all kinds of buzzy little concepts floating around in my brain, not to mention the cramp in my hand from trying to get as much as I could into my little spiral-bound notebook.
While the presentations were all independently interesting, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on them all in one over-arching framework. And Swanson provided such a framework very handily – his presentation focused on what he called the six pillars of Mormon art. I would like to break my comments, interspersed with what the presenters had to say and examples and commentary from the contemporary Mormon art world, into six separate discussions, to be published here – well, let’s be realistic – whenever I get the chance to write them. The first one will appear within the week.
As an introduction, however, here are the six pillars defined by Swanson:
- The Bible’s injunction against graven images
- Wisehearted art as “curious workmanship” and “cunning wisdom”
- The Book of Mormon’s view of art as a sign of arrogance
- “There is Beauty All Around” – decorative and collaborative art
- Art as a showpiece – proof of greatness
- Art as an agent for “softening one’s heart”
I look forward to discussing them with you.
At the risk of beating a topic into the ground, I have one more observation on Minerva Teichert. Last week I again found myself in Provo on a quick trip and ended up with two close college friends to entertain and an hour to kill. So I took them to see Pageants in Paint. They both enjoyed the exhibit, and while we waited for Abby, who was contemplating the duo of paintings Squaws and Braves (which have been posthumously euphemistically renamed), Kristin and I sat in front of the Book of Mormon frieze and chatted about the exhibition.
We decided, among other things, that Teichert deserves her own crayon. I’ll write to Crayola and try to negotiate the deal. But I want my own personal Minerva Red next time I sit down to color. Continue reading “Minerva Red”
Of all the genres of art we are now familiar with, all but a very few are products of modernism and the bourgeois takeover of the art world in the 20th century. Portraiture, landscape, still life: all of these artistic staples were once considered the low, crass art of those who painted with motives no nobler than wanting to make a daily wage. In the Academic European art world, only one genre was really given much credulity, at least until the more revolutionary currents that would define the industrial world would come to power in later years. This genre was History Painting, the grand, noble task of representing not only human “history,” but philosophy, mythology and allegory. Any painter could reproduce a pretty face or a plate of fruit, but it took a master artist to capture the humanist values that defined European culture. And most of the time that artist was a man.
Continue reading “Minerva Teichert. The History Painter?”
Last month I had an opportunity to head down to Utah and do the Mormon Art Trifecta – The Church Museum of History and Art, The BYU Museum of Art, and the Springville Museum of Art. I had heard marvelous things particularly about BYU MOA’s Beholding Salvation exhibit and was excited to get to experience it. Unfortunately, my timing was bad and I just missed Beholding Salvation, but the other two museums didn’t let me down, with a Relief Society exhibit at the Church Musuem and the annual Spring Salon in Springville (upon which I shall elaborate in an upcoming post) making the trip worthwhile.
Well, it looks like my next trip, if I can make it to Sister Sato’s Salt Lake wedding at the end of August, will redeem BYU MOA for me this summer. Mormon art’s very own primadonna Minerva Teichert will be featured in an exhibit that promises to be far more fascinating even than her usually superb artwork.
“Minerva Teichert: Pageants in Paint,” opens on Friday, July 27 and will run through May 26, 2008. It features some of her work from private collections not seen before, which is promising enough, but the theme of the exhibit is a focus on the influence of pageants and murals on the seminal turn-of-the-century woman artist.
We’ve seen Teichert at her most dramatic in the Manti temple – the world room boasting a proud procession of temporal history. But what this exhibit promises to unfold is the influence that American mural paintings as well as the distinctly Utah art culture of drama and dance had on Teichert’s 2-dimensional work. The social and historical implications of this as well are fascinating, and I for one am excited to catch the opening act. I hope those of you who can make it will take the chance to see the exhibit.