Diversity with the unifying factor of faith in the gospel characterize the artists and their works that are featured in the newest exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City.
"Reflections on the kingdom: Images of Latter-day Saint History and Belief" opened with a reception the evening of Nov. 18. It features 125 works of art depicting themes from the time of Joseph Smith to the present, including historical events, scriptural stories, religious activities, Christian values, portraits, Church buildings and mountain landscapes.Exhibit curator Robert O. Davis said the exhibit shows "the common religious heritage of Latter-day Saint artists worldwide."
"Though they have expressed themselves in diverse traditions and styles," he said, "these artists share the purpose of telling the history and affirming the faith of the saints."
Besides the traditional fine art categories of painting and sculpture, the exhibit includes wood carving, quilting, illustrations and photography. Bringing an international flavor to the exhibit are a Tongan tapa cloth, an Indonesian batik , a Cuna Indian mola, a painted Austrian armoire, and a carved Peruvian gourd.
Davis said the exhibit mixes in a few new works along with numerous pieces that, because of their frequent use in LDS Church publications, will be familiar to many viewers.
Among the more familiar works are examples of Arnold Friberg's Book of Mormon illustrations, Avard Fairbanks' "Tragedy of Winter Quarters" monument, Minerva Teichert's scenes of pioneer women, Mahonri Young's plaster model of "This Is the Place Monument," and Torlief Knaphus's "The Handcart Family." The handcart statue is displayed on the original oak base made for use when it was shown at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago.
"Such a complete selection of major LDS interpretive works has never been drawn together before in a single event." Davis said. "These visual masterpieces have defined the Mormon story visually for Church members and other artists," he said.
All but a half dozen of the 75 or so artists represented in the exhibit are Church members. Of the best known non-LDS artists, American illustrator Tom Lovell is represented in the exhibit by two Book of Mormon scenes, while the work of Harry Anderson, a Seventh-day Adventist artist known for his paintings of the New Testament, is seen in the "The Ascension."
Landscapes by American artists Albert Munger, Maynard Dixon and Johann Schroder are included, as is a portrait by Gutzon Borglum. Borglum, born of Mormon parents in Idaho, is known for his Mt. Rushmore carvings of the U. S. presidents.
Among the most dramatic works of art is the official portrait of Gov. Brigham Young painted in 1866 by visiting portraitist Enoch Wood Perry. Displayed in an elaborately carved frame, the massive image is on loan from its usual hanging place in the Salt Lake City Council chambers.
Also of special interest are the bust of Jane Dallin by her son, sculptor Cyrus Dallin, and an early masterpiece by Lee Greene Richards, the 1904 portrait of Relief Society Pres. Bathsheba W. Smith. Thomas Ward's portrait of Phoebe Woodruff and Son will attract attention because of its primitive artistic style.
The exhibit's storyline is developed around six themes, Davis said, each represented with about 20 works of art. "Joseph Smith and the Restoration" begins the story. In this section are artistic portrayals of Joseph Smith's First Vision and the visits of angelic messengers to deliver the Book of Mormon plates and to confer priesthood authority. Portraits of Joseph Smith, early scenes of Nauvoo, and modern depictions of the Prophet's martyrdom complete the section.
In a second grouping, "The Gathering to Zion," artists show European missionary work and emigration, the exodus westward from Nauvoo, and scenes of the Mormon Battalion and pioneers.
"Building the Kingdom of God," the third section, shows the people who built the western Zion, portraits of some Church leaders and the temples that became central to Mormon settlement patterns. Gordon Cope's portrait of J. Golden Kimball, and Dennis Smith's "Planted along the Banks of Old Lake Bonneville" are striking entries.
The exhibit next centers on "The Mormon Landscape," with emphasis on mountain scenes, rural villages and agricultural lifestyle. Prominent are some symbols of that landscape - irrigation ditches, poplar trees, and the village.
The fifth theme shows stories and teachings from "Scriptures of the Restored Church." The images shown here trace mankind's journey from the Garden of Eden to the millennium and resurrection, with a major selection of stories from the Book of Mormon. Besides many familiar images are newer works: "The Return," showing the retreat from a Nephite Battle, by David Hoeft; and "Alma the Younger Called to Repentance," stained glass, created in 1979 by James C. Christensen.
Both spiritual and practical sides of life are juxtaposed in a final section, "Latter-day Saint Beliefs and Lifestyle." Along with depictions of gospel principles are family outings, welfare projects, cooperatives, and Relief Society quilters. Religious faith is represented by Shauna Cook Clinger's "That They Who See Not, Might See," while Lee Udall Bennion's "Turning Toward the Light" alludes to a repentant attitude.
"More than anything else," Davis commented, "these images show what it means to be a Latter-day Saint. The works chosen for the exhibit clearly state the various themes, but they also contain feeling, spiritual content, integrity, and aesthetic meaning."
Davis pointed out several artistic comparisons showing variety in the Latter-day Saint visual heritage. Images of Joseph Smith, for example, range from the simply designed "Vision" in white marble by Avard Fairbanks to the realistic bronze bust by Dee Jay Bawden and the interpretive high-fired clay character study by Lyuba Prusak.
Priesthood restoration is shown variously by Haidi Pronoto in a dyed fabric batik, and by Ronald Fish in a small, carved, wood sculpture.
The documentary cityscapes of Nauvoo done by itinerant artists Johann Schroeder and an unknown contemporary in the late 1850s are interestingly similar in treatment. A more recent artistic view by Al Rounds focuses on the Seventies Hall in its urban settings.
The settling of the West by Mormon pioneers lends itself well to storytelling through art, as with the "Sailing Steamer Ship on the Atlantic," by John Tullidge; the exodus across the frozen Mississippi from Nauvoo by Iowa folk artist J.F. Smith; and "Calling Volunteers for the Mormon Battalion," by C.C.A. Christensen.
In size and power of dramatic meaning, Minerva Teichert's "Madonna of 1847: Covered Wagon Pioneers" dominates the pioneers section, but smaller pieces by George M. Ottinger, Gary Knapp, Barna Meeker, J.B. Fairbanks, and Gary Price enrich the story. "Dreaming of Zion (Pioneer Girl)" is a striking, idealized portrait by Lee Greene Richards done for the Church centennial in 1930.
From that same period is "Temple Builders," by Henry Rasmussen, whose boldly realistic contemporary style reminds one of his work with Lynn Fausett on the WPA Federal Arts Projects murals.
Mahonri Young's seated "Brigham Young" is a miniature of the large bronze displayed in the National Capitol in Washington, D.C., since 1950.
Arnold Friberg's "First Sunday School," painted for the centennial in 1949, and Minerva Teichert's "Miracle of the Gulls," done in 1935, are familiar interpretations of well-known incidents in Latter-day Saint history.
"It was the 19th Century, it seems, that produced artists interested in photographic views of the Mormon cityscape," Davis said. Views of Parowan and Fillmore in 1852 are early examples, while Dan Weggeland's "Brigham Young's Backyard" and John Hafen's "Salt Lake Theater" show greater skill and interest in the neighborhood scene.
Fine examples of landscapes are seen in "Rocky Mountain Scene," by John Tullidge; "Jordan River Landscape," by Lorus Pratt; "Pioneer Houses, Winter," by LeConte Stewart; and "Empty Pioneer House with Poplars, Southern Utah," by Maynard Dixon.
Free patron parking is available at 103 N. West Temple.
Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Annually, the museum is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's day, and at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.