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Artist's work springs from colorful life

As a member of the Art Students League in New York City, Minerva Teichert received from her non-Mormon mentor, Robert Henri, what she considered a "calling" to paint the Mormon story.

"Has anyone ever told your great Mormon story?" he asked her."Not to suit me," she replied.

"Good heavens, girl, what a chance!" the noted artist exclaimed. "You do it. You're the one."

She followed his advice and, before her death in 1976, had established for herself a unique niche among the prominent artists in the history of the Church.

A generous sampling of her work is being exhibited at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City. The exhibit, "Rich in Story, Great in Faith: the Art of Minerva Kohlhepp Teichert," opened March 18 for a planned seven-month showing.

"Minerva Teichert led an incredibly colorful life, and her art springs directly from it," museum curator Richard G. Oman commented.

She grew up on an Indian reservation in the Snake River bottoms of southeastern Idaho. She studied art in Chicago and in New York, where she supported herself by working for an entertainment troupe doing Indian dances and rope tricks.

She and her husband, Herman, settled down on a cattle ranch in Cokeville, Wyo., where they reared five children. Burdened with the rigors of ranching life, and actively involved in Church service, she nevertheless painted prolifically. Her living room was her studio, where she would nail a canvas to the wall, and paint long into the night after her children had been put to bed.

"Minerva Teichert was a verb, an active verb," Oman said. "She was a lady with incredible energy. She painted with broad, bold, energetic brush strokes, just like she lived her life."

Sister Teichert's paintings of gospel and Church history subjects - including a series of more than 40 works on the Book of Mormon, and the murals in the world room of the Manti Temple - are fascinating because they reflect the perspective of a rancher's wife, Oman observed.

Women are prominently featured, as in her 1930 work, "Handcart Pioneers," which pictures in the forefront a woman with her arm raised in heroic expression.

The exhibit is designed to help the visitor get to know Sister Teichert as a person, Oman said. It features a replica of her living-room studio, complete with authentic furniture, music copied from old phonograph records, and a life-size manniquin representing the artist.

"The exhibit is full of great stories," Oman said.

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