For nearly three decades, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been showcasing the artistic talents of its membership at triennial art competitions. Works from the Ninth International Art Competition were shown at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City earlier this year, and the theme for the Tenth International Art Competition, coming in 2015, already has been announced.
Now the church has gone in an exciting new direction with its first International Art Competition for Youth. "Arise and Shine Forth," which features the work of young LDS artists ages 13 through 18, opened last month at the Church History Museum and will be displayed through June 17. The theme for the show, taken from the Doctrine and Covenants (a work of LDS sacred scripture) is also the 2012 theme for the church's the Young Men and Young Women youth groups.
The challenge for the show's young artists was to create something that would individually express their feelings about the theme. Patrick Dunshee, media relations manager for the Church History Museum, said that the works in the show address the theme in many different ways. "The variety is amazing," Dunshee said.
More than 400 artists from 35 U.S. states and 30 different countries submitted their work. Church History Museum educator Tiffany Bowles said that the submissions were reviewed by a jury of art professionals, and also by a peer group of six teens on a "youth humanities council." Both groups liked some of the same things, Bowles said, but the youth judges "in some cases had very different opinions from the professionals."
In the end, 82 works were chosen to be displayed at the museum, representing artists from 13 different countries. There's a third phase of judging, however, that's still under way. Visitors to the exhibition, both at the museum and online (history.lds.org), will determine which works are chosen to receive Visitors Choice Awards.
Many expressions of faith
Most of the works in the show are paintings, though several different artistic media are represented. Bowles said that the exhibition includes clay sculpture, photography, a stained glass mosaic, a quilt and a variety of other unique pieces. One young artist created a paper cutout representation of the Salt Lake City Temple, while another created a wall-hung display featuring the innards of a disassembled desktop computer.
"He mounted the different pieces on hard board," Bowles said. "It's almost like a sculpture."
Another unusual piece in the show is a stoneware totem pole similar to the totem poles carved in wood by American Indians in the Pacific Northwest.
Some of the paintings in the show break the mold as well. Bowles said one painting that's attracted a lot of attention from visitors is "Volume II, Issue IV," by Alexandra Wincek of Arizona. The pop-art painting has two panels that look as though they were drawn for the pages of a comic book, one depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the other shows Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene following his resurrection.
Bowles said that the painting is very large, and that "the pop-art look captures people's attention."
The exhibition encourages participation from visitors. In addition to voting at special digital kiosks for favorite works of art to receive Visitors Choices Awards, patrons can create their own artistic expression of the show's theme. "There's a station that allows visitors to create art themselves and put it on the wall," Dunshee said, adding that the interactive element was especially popular with his young daughter.
The show's artists can also track some of the response to their work by visiting the Church History Museum on Facebook. Visitors to the Facebook site are encouraged to scroll through a gallery of the works displayed at the museum and "like" their favorites.
Temples and ancestors
Many of the youth artists whose work is in the show are from Utah, including several from Utah Valley. American Fork resident Samuel Cassani made the grade with an early evening photo of the Mount Timpanogos Temple in American Fork. The photo, which captures the temple's namesake rising up behind it, with a near-full moon hanging low in the night sky, is titled "A Beacon in the Night."
Cassani, 18, has been doing photography for several years now after picking it up as an interest from a friend. "A Beacon in the Night" is an HDR, or "high dynamic range" photograph, a type that combines extra effort on the part of the photographer with a bit of digital editing wizardry.
To create an HDR photo, Cassani said, a photographer takes three shots of the same scene or object, one that's overexposed, one that's underexposed, and one taken at normal exposure. The photographer can then use photo-editing software to layer the three images on top of each other and flatten them into a single image.
"It's closer to what your eye sees in real life," Cassani said. "It balances out the light levels."
For Ellie Tobiasson of Santaquin, the "Arise and Shine Forth" theme sparked memories of her great-grandmother. Tobiasson, 14, created "Looking Toward the Future" -- a drawing that depicts Tobiassion as an infant in the arms of her great-grandmother, Nina Hull -- after being encouraged to enter the competition by her mother. Strongly encouraged.
"I did not want to do it," Tobiasson said. "My mom made me."
Over a three-month period of working on her drawing, Tobiasson frequently thought about quitting, but her mother kept her going. Tobiasson said that her strong-willed great-grandmother, who died when Tobiassion was 4, was also a source of inspiration. "She made me want to be a better person," Tobiasson said. "What she cared about most in life was her children and grandchildren. She called them the jewels of her crown."