LDS western artists reflect life, Church history in work

Art of the American West, on display in a new exhibit at the Church Museum of History and Art, portray Church history and personal experiences of Church members.

The paintings and sculptures - depicting Native Americans, mountain men, cowboys and pioneers - are the work of 36 LDS artists.The exhibit is one of three new installations at the museum on Western American themes, which opened in May. They are part of a yearlong Utah centennial celebration. The second exhibit features Utah artist Mahonri Young's early 19th century work, documenting life among Native American in the Four Corners region of southwest United States. The third exhibit features historic western firearms.

Richard G. Oman, curator of the western art exhibit, said some of works in the exhibit illustrate the history of the Church, whose early pioneers settled hundreds of communities in the West.

"There is a strong connection between the artists and their work, life, family experience and Church history," Brother Oman said.

The 43 renditions, which will be on display through Feb. 17, 1997, capture such subjects as the inside a trading post, western landscapes, wildlife, coal mining, the pioneers crossing the plains and a Colorado river run.

The artist of the second exhibit, Mahonri Young, was born in Salt Lake City in 1877. He studied in New York City and Paris and became best know in Utah for his sculptures of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and the Seagull Monument on Temple Square, and the This Is the Place Monument at the mouth of Emigration Canyon.

The grandson of Brigham Young, Mahonri Young was commissioned by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in 1912 to study life among the Navajo, Hopi and Apache Indians. Brother Young made numerous extended trips to sketch his subjects, living among the Indian tribes for about 10 years.

Robert Davis, exhibit curator, said the 78 Mahonri Young works, all borrowed from BYU, portray "a lot of human qualities and traits that we all share." He used Mahonri Young's own words, pulled from the artist's diaries, to interpret the art.

"Young has effectively portrayed the Native Americans in their family and village life, and as individuals," Brother Davis explained. "We see the basic life of people, raising sheep and preparing food. . . . We see people who knew their roles in life and were content, peaceful and happy."

The exhibit will also be displayed until Feb. 17, 1997.

The third exhibit, located in the museum's main foyer, features historic pistols, rifles and shotguns owned by Brigham Young, Porter Rockwell, Kit Carson and others. The guns, which will be exhibited until Nov. 18, include early examples of Colt, Winchester, Browning and Derringer models, along with a rare seven-shot revolver.

More people visited the museum during the first three months of 1996 than in any year's first quarter since the museum opened in 1984, reported museum director Glen M. Leonard. He said the museum hosted 56,613 visitors, exceeding the first quarter of 1992, the next best quarter, by 4,197.

Brother Leonard credits the museum's success this year to reasonably good weather during the three-month period and to diverse exhibits.

The museum is located just west of Temple Square at 45 N. West Temple and is open daily, free of charge. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and most holidays.

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