One thing I often claim about my faith (and which outsiders generally snort at) is the size of the Mormon umbrella. Doctrinally, we welcome every truth, every person, every thing. All things are of God and part of being One and True is that we cover everything.
Brigham Young: “In a word, if “Mormonism” is not my life, I do not know that I have any. I do not understand anything else, for it embraces everything that comes within the range of the understanding of man. If it does not circumscribe every thing that is in heaven and on earth, it is not what it purports to be.”
That’s the Mormonism I believe in.
Yet, if you look around, our critics have a point. We appear to be rather homogeneous.
Even here in the radical middle we tend to, over time, draw our circles smaller and smaller. Think of how many Zarahemla Books releases have received our attention. And I’m about to give Angela Hallstrom her fourth (fourth!) AMV interview. Regarding Zarahemla’s new fiction collection.
Clearly we are at risk of becoming provincial.
I mention all this to explain why I am so thrilled when I meet an art-making Saint who could never pass for Gerald Lund in a crowded room.
Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire is a faithful artist could never pass for Gerald Lund in a crowded room. I caught up with him via email for a conversation. Continue reading “Latter-day Saint, Latter-day Lovecraft: an interview with W.H. Pugmire”
Last month, Seth Godin wrote a post that both illuminates and complicates the realities for Mormon arts and culture. He outlines what he calls the passion/pop curve (make sure you click on the figure in the post to make it bigger so you can actually read it). The curves live on two axes — the first is the number of users/customers/fans. The second relates to content and brand. One one end you have edgy/obsessed and on the other you have vapid/trite. As Godin explains:
That bell curve to the left represents acceptance by the focused/excited/tastemaking community. Those are the people who love microbeers and haute couture and Civil War memorabilia. Like all market curves, there’s a sweet spot. Go too nutsy on us ($90,000 turntables, for example) and even the committed will flee. Go too pop, though, and we’ll avoid you as well.
The bell curve on the right, you’ll notice, is bigger. This is a second market, a bigger market, the market of pop. These are the folks who go to the Olive Garden for a nice Italian meal instead of the authentic place down the street. They too want something that’s not too edgy and not too (in their opinion) trite.
And here’s the kicker
The reason you need to care is that gap in the middle. Every day, millions of businesses get stuck in that gap. They either move to the right in search of the masses or move to the left in search of authenticity, but they compromise. And they get stuck with neither.
One of the issues for the Mormon market is that we layer on a limiter to the graph — that is, not only do you have to deal with the passion/pop curve, but that the number of users is limited to those who buy into the Mormonism of a product (or of the product’s creator) as a viable category. Or in other words, the numbers on the y-axis go down. You have the same edgy/vapid issues that come with the x-axis, but it’s harder to hit the target because the y-axis has shrunk. This is less of an issue for those hitting for the pop curve because it’s always bigger, and this is definitely true of the Mormon market, e.g. Deseret Book. But even there, you still have to make the case to the consumer: you need this particular product because it appeals to your tastes AND it’s Mormon. You have to sell them (and reassure them) on both aspects of the product. Continue reading “The Mormon market and the passion/pop gulf”