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Stunning work by new Latter-day Saint artists showcased in Church's international competition

For Latter-day Saint artists across the globe, the Church’s International Art Competition remains a tradition offering unparalleled opportunities to share their talents and testimonies with thousands.

Meanwhile, legions of visitors to the Church History Museum can engage with artwork marked by its diversity of artistic tradition and media. This year’s iteration features the works of artists from Argentina to Malawi and dozens of locales in between.

The artwork on display ranges from traditional oil paintings and wood carvings to sculptures crafted from paper and even Legos. Even a panel of recycled cardboard was utilized on a painting from Peru depicting a heroic moment from the Book of Joshua.

But there's a spiritual unity in the 11th International Art Competition — a consortium of creative voices articulating a joint witness and gospel testimony.

"Harvest at Hand," by Jacob Richard Chestnut, is pictured during a media preview for the 11th International Art Exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.
"Harvest at Hand," by Jacob Richard Chestnut, is pictured during a media preview for the 11th International Art Exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Each of the 151 pieces of art on display in the Church History Museum’s upper floor reveal "the hand of God and meditates upon all His wonders,” said curator Laura Allred Hurtado.

The year’s competition theme — “Meditations on Belief” — draws from Psalm 77:11-12: “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.”

For each artist, that Old Testament passage invited a personal, wide open interpretation.

“I was excited to learn of the theme of this year's competition,” said Utah artist Paige Anderson, whose non-representative oil “Fitting Fragment” enlists “faith, doubt, incongruities and paradoxes” and the Church’s celebrated history of quilting.

The galleries showcasing the international competition are filled “with so many artists I admire,” she added.

Anderson hopes visitors take a few moments to study each piece of art, read its explanatory label and discover shared spiritual connections with its creator.

"Christ Healing," a terra-cotta piece by Leroy Transfield, is pictured during a media preview for the 11th International Art Exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.
"Christ Healing," a terra-cotta piece by Leroy Transfield, is pictured during a media preview for the 11th International Art Exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

As in past international competitions, this year’s show allows museum patrons to discover and “identify new artists,” said Carrie Snow, the museum’s manager of Collections and Care.

The entries demonstrate the evolution of Latter-day Saint art, she added.

Many of the pieces on display are far different from what members might find, say, hanging in the hallways of their ward meetinghouse. But that’s the point. The competition captures “new voices” while expanding a cultural legacy “and redefining our visual heritage.”

Selecting the 151 pieces of art for the competition wasn’t easy. Over 900 pieces of art were submitted from almost 30 countries. The artwork was selected by a team of five jurors representing the continents of Africa, the Americas and Europe.

A detail of "Ask of God," by Janna Siebert, is pictued during a media preview for the 11th International Art Exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.
A detail of "Ask of God," by Janna Siebert, is pictued during a media preview for the 11th International Art Exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

For Juror Herman du Toit of South Africa, reading the testimonies of the submitting artists highlighted the judging process. He was also also enthused by the broad range of participants. Their artwork, he noted, ‘broadens our cannon and introduces new voices.”

Despite the openness of the theme, several familiar gospel-anchored subjects organically emerged — including the importance of families, defining moments from the scriptures, devotion to God and His creations, reverence and awe for the divine, the temple, and the central role of women in the gospel.

Julie Yuen Yim’s “The Plan of Salvation,” for example, reflects the “familiar diversity” of the Church’s International Art Competition. Her piece is cut Chinese paper and, in a single panel, teaches the plan of happiness — from the Creation, to the Fall, to the birth and crucifixion of Christ, to the Resurrection and the Restoration and, finally, eternal life with loved ones.

Viewers of Yuen Yim's piece will likely recognize key moments from their own lives. They are key players in the plan of salvation.

Several competition entries will be purchased and added to the Church History Museum’s permanent collection.

The International Art Competition runs through Oct. 7, 2019. The museum is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is free.

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