Oil paintings depicting stories from the scriptures, finely crafted pottery, needlework representing themes from the life of Christ, a quilt portraying the worldwide priesthood—these artworks represent the variety of entries in the Second International Art Competition sponsored by the Church’s Museum of Church History and Art.
More than eight hundred Latter-day Saint artists in forty-two nations responded to the museum’s call in February 1990 to create works of art featuring themes from the scriptures. Artists searched the standard works for their inspiration. Then, utilizing varied artistic styles and mediums, they created appealing images based on scriptural themes.
A six-member committee selected about two hundred of the entries to be displayed in the Salt Lake City museum. Among these are twenty winners of cash prizes and several purchase awards funded by an anonymous donor. The exhibition filled four museum galleries with works by talented beginners as well as by artists with years of experience. Art styles representing cultural traditions from every continent are included. Judges expressed delight at the high quality of the submitted artwork and at the artists’ creativity in representing the people, principles, stories, and messages found in Latter-day Saint scripture.
“We witnessed an increase in artistic quality since the first competition four years ago, and a genuine effort to deal creatively with religious ideas,” said Robert Davis, an art curator at the museum and one of the judges. “The artists who submitted entries come from many cultural traditions, but they share a common gospel orientation. This was reflected in their paintings and sculpture, in quilts, needlework, pottery, and other artistic endeavors.”
Many of the participating artists accepted the challenge by creating art to express their testimonies of gospel principles: the Atonement, prayer, baptism, service, peace, and truth, for example. Others turned to Bible stories and events: the Creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Joseph’s coat of many colors, the trials of Job, the story of Esther, the Last Supper, the Savior’s trial in Gethsemane, and the revelation of John. Still others looked to the Book of Mormon, choosing topics such as the Liahona, the people of Limhi, the title of liberty, Christ’s visit to the Nephites, and Moroni with the plates. Modern scriptures inspired other themes, such as the First Vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, missionary work, Christ’s appearance in the Kirtland Temple, and the pioneer trek.
“We wanted to recognize artists whose works were judged to be exemplary in treatment of scriptural themes and in representation of high artistic accomplishment,” said Richard Oman, a judge and museum art curator. “We judged batiks from Indonesia on the artistic standard applied to batiks, oil paintings from Chile by Latin American painting standard, and quilts from Utah on the standard applied to quilts. But we expected all artists to look to the scriptures for their themes.”
Certainly this competition has encouraged Latter-day Saint artists to express their faith through religious art, with the entire Church benefiting from their talents.
In addition to the sampling of art seen in this issue of the Tambuli, other art from the competition will be published in future issues on the inside back cover or as illustrations for articles.