Saturday I went to Provo, about an hour south of Salt Lake City. Home to Brigham Young University, which I refused to attend even though the school offered me a hefty scholarship, and the Missionary Training Center, my nine weeks at which I loathed with every iota of my being, Provo is not some place I would visit just for the hell of it. But currently one of my dearest friends lives there, so after two decades of staying well away from Provo, I've visited twice in the past six months.
This most recent trip involved looking at lots of art, some good, most of it downright terrible. The BYU's Museum of Art had an exhibit called As a Rose by sculptor Adam Bateman, made of sprinkler components. I totally dug it. The permanent collection is a bit heavy on fairly pedestrian landscapes, but there are some great pieces in it too.
But the art in the BYU bookstore is another matter. Oh my lord--and I say that as a prayer of hopeless desperation. The place sells so many depictions of Jesus, invariably northern-European-looking, usually cheesy, occasionally creepy. There's one of Jesus with four hot young women, one of them slightly ethnic looking.... Is this polygamist Jesus? There's one of Jesus hugging the three children (one of whom appears to be crying) of an attractive woman, who also gets a little affection from JC. The caption to the painting said something about how the intent was to depict a Jesus you could actually hang out with, someone who would be your friend--you know, the kind of guy who would provide really great booze at your wedding, or else date your mom after she kicks your no-good dad out of the house.
The only artist whose work A) we found on sale in the BYU bookstore and B) doesn't completely suck is J.Kirk Richards, who served a mission in Rome, which is probably one reason he actually seems to know something about art history and creates interesting variations on themes in Christian art. Pieces I liked include this really lovely Mother and Child and this Angel with (gasp!) wings ('cause in case you didn't know, in Mormon theology, angels don't have wings).
And after that, we went to galleries to look at bad Mormon art, because you have to know your enemy--at least, you have to know their work if you're going mock it effectively.