50 Years of LDS Art

The following is an excerpt from a post on the Zion Art Society website.


Take a da Vinci or Michelangelo…and give him a total knowledge of the plan of salvation of God, and personal revelation, and cleanse him, and then take a look at the statues he will carve, and the murals he will paint, and the masterpieces he will produce.

Spencer W. Kimball

This [month] is the 50th anniversary of the address “A Gospel Vision of the Arts.” Given in 1967 by Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, it has become both loved and loathed by those who strive to produce religious art in the Church. Loved because President Kimball’s remarks made the ambitious claim that the then 137-year-old Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could rival the cultural contributions of any major religion—even those that had been around for thousands of years. Having a Shakespeare, Milton, Mozart, and Michelangelo of the Restoration, according to Kimball, was not only possible, but inevitable. This also created a great deal of angst among artists for setting up an almost impossible standard; the notion that each work of art should be compared to a canonical ideal (e.g. Will a temple ever house something that resembles in scale and hostorical importance Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling?).

Kimball’s “Gospel Vision” could not have been given even a few years earlier. Its message was the natural consequence of a leader witnessing the beginning of a new and powerful role that the arts [were] beginning to play in the Church’s self-proclaimed missions “to proclaim the Gospel” and “perfect the Saints.” The relationship that the Church and its members have with visual arts can be tracked over the decades through participation in World’s Fairs, mass publication of instructional materials, the establishment of religious retail spaces, major Church construction projects, and, most recently, the advent of gallery culture …

There are an estimated 20,000 LDS artists working today. Many of them trace their lineage back to a handful of professors working at … Brigham Young University. Often educated outside of LDS visual cultures, … these professors participated in their respective aesthetic zeitgeists. Through their experimentation and broad views, they are the sources of new styles and ideas that have influenced thousands of LDS artists.

The rest of the article and examples of Mormon art from decades past can be found at the Zion Art Society website.

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