Expressing Our Faith: Latter-day Saint Art


For some years, the staff of the Museum of Church History and Art has collected art created by members of the Church. We considered it all “Latter-day Saint art,” simply because it was created by Church members. But more recently, we have sharpened our focus. Currently, we are collecting art with a Latter-day Saint theme. Most of this work is spontaneously created by Latter-day Saint artists as they visually declare their faith to the world.

But some Latter-day Saint artists create beautiful works that do not necessarily deal with a religious theme. We try to encourage such artists to consider expressing gospel themes in their work. Sometimes that encouragement is given on an individual basis, and sometimes we invite all Latter-day Saint artists to create something within the gospel framework and enter it in the international art competition sponsored by the museum.

The works we have collected thus far demonstrate that the word art covers many forms of expression. As the gospel message reaches out to the world and the Church membership expands to include many cultures, we see that art means textiles, ceramics, paintings, drawings, pottery, jewelry, quilting, embroidery, weaving, and many other mediums.

Most art in the museum can be considered folk art, a record of our lives expressed within our own cultural framework. What is seen in these pages is a sampling of truly Latter-day Saint art. It reminds us that despite the incredible cultural diversity of the Church, we are a community of believers in the Savior. It also reminds us that it is faith, covenants, and good works that are important—not political, economic, or technological power.

The First Vision(click to view larger)

“The First Vision,” a one-meter-long batik by Joni Susanto, Yojakarta, Indonesia. A third-generation batik maker, Brother Susanto created this piece for the second international art competition (1991) sponsored by the Museum of Church History and Art.

Armoire(click to view larger)

Swiss-born cabinetmaker Fredrich Dietrich made this 228-centimeter-tall armoire in 1986 in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was painted by Rosalinde Lipp and her son, Gerhart, formerly of Austria. The decoration, similar to the style typical of Upper Austria in the 1830s, depicts the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, missionaries, the Salt Lake Temple, and baptism. Sister Lipp has returned to her homeland, where she is recognized as a leading folk artist.

Welcome Plaque

“Welcome Plaque,” polychrome wood relief (seventy-six centimeters tall) by Joseph H. Fisher (1856–1940), Meadow, Utah. This plaque is either the original, or is based on the original carving for the Meadow Ward pulpit. The symbolic depiction of doves, hands clasped in friendship, and roses reminded ward members of the need to love one another and help make the desert “blossom as a rose.”

cloisonné vase

Heber J. Grant, who later served as President of the Church from 1918 to 1945, was one of the first LDS missionaries to Japan. He acquired this thirty-centimeter-high cloisonné vase (lacquer on metal) that depicts Salt Lake’s Temple Square and the nearby Wasatch Mountains superimposed on a traditional Japanese fan.

Armenian carpet(click to view larger)

Ruben Ouzonian (1894–1974) and his wife, Mary (1908–1991), began weaving this Armenian carpet in the early 1950s in Allepo, Syria, while awaiting their visas to migrate to the United States. Descendants of long lines of Armenian rug weavers, they completed the work in 1955. The 182 x 243 centimeter carpet depicts all the Presidents of the Church and the active temples up to the time it was woven.

Navajo pot

One of the leading Navajo Indian potters, Lucy McKelevy of Bloomfield, New Mexico, created this 35-centimeter-high pot in 1988. It depicts Book of Mormon figures Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam. The snake-like figure at the bottom of the pot represents the “water serpent” or “white god,” who taught the Pueblo Indians how to live. This type of pottery is made by hand without a potter’s wheel, painted with colors from minerals and boiled plant juices, and fired in an open wood fire.

Venezuela plaque

Depicting Lehi’s vision of the tree of life (see 1 Ne. 8), this 91-centimeter-diameter plaque was carved in 1987 by Victore de la Torres, Caracas, Venezuela, a professional artist originally from Ecuador.

Cuna Indian mola

Made in the early 1980s by a Cuna Indian sister of the San Blas Islands of Panama, this 43-centimeter-wide mola depicts the Salt Lake Temple. Molas are made by sewing several layers of cloth together and then cutting down through the layers to reveal the appropriate color—a form of reverse appliqué. Traditionally, molas were made as panels for the front of blouses.

Mola

Depicting the baptism of Jesus, this 43-centimeter-wide mola was also created in the early 1980s by a sister of the San Blas Islands. The face of the sun represents God the Father looking down on the event. The parrot in the tree is the San Blas Indian equivalent of a dove, representing the Holy Ghost. (See also the art on the inside back cover.)

Richard G. Oman, a senior curator at the Museum of Church History and Art, Salt Lake City, Utah, lives in the East Millcreek Utah Stake.