I’d been reading medieval Japanese literature for a few weeks (ah, the joys of going back to school) and really didn’t have time to pick up a novel, but it was a bit of an emotional and social necessity. So I walked down to the library on a warm summer evening a few weeks ago and looked for a copy of That Hideous Strength, the third and final book in C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy. I own a copy of my own, but most of my books are in a storage unit until I can finally live somewhere that allows me to have furniture. It vexes. But I digress.
I fear the connection here may seem tenuous. Lewis is not, after all, a Mormon author, as much as we’d long to appropriate him. But neither was the art exhibition I had looked forward to actually Mormon art. Come to think of it, the only Mormon factor in this entire train of thought is me. Let’s see how far-fetched we can get.
The most recent exhibition to open at the BYU Museum of Art is quite a departure from their previous featured exhibitions. Beholding Salvation was a collection so doctrine-centric that it seemed to pay no heed to any sort of artistic cohesion. Not that I’m criticizing – there is room for this unique curatorial approach, especially in the peculiarly insular Utah art scene. It was extremely popular with the viewing public, even (especially?) those who don’t usually consider themselves part of the Art Elite. Last year, they featured Pageants in Paint, a huge retrospective of Minerva Teichert’s work. Again – clearly Mormon art – but it was an exhibition that featured wonderful scholarship and a thematic cohesion that’s nice to see at the MoA. Last week, their newest exhibit opened: Turning Point: The Demise of Modernism and the Rebirth of Meaning in American Art. This exhibit makes no claims to be Mormon, nor does it take into consideration at all the doctrinal or even cultural foundations of Mormonism. It just happens to be in Utah. And it’s fairly successful, for what it is. It makes a clean, concise, didactic little statement about what happened to the Art Establishment in the 60s. It re-hashes Clement Greenberg. They even managed to get a Frank Stella piece on loan and it’s awful pretty. The exhibition as a whole is every bit as thought-provoking as minimalist statements and cultureless attempts at conceptual art tend to be. Which is, to say, it is entirely bankrupt of meaning and soul and it casts a dramatic spotlight across the gulf that separates Mormonism as a worldview from the secular fine art establishment.
Continue reading “Mormon Art in Belbury”
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.