BYU's 'Nature and Nurture' art exhibit explores family relationships

By Jennifer Lee

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Nov. 7 2010 3:51 p.m. MST

PROVO — Works by 10 diverse Utah artists made up a recent art exhibition at BYU that explored the challenges and complexities found in family relationships.

The exhibition, titled "Nature and Nurture: Narratives of Family," was co-curated by BYU art history professor James Swensen and undergraduate student Emily Larsen.

"Emily and I were interested in the ways in which different artists represented various aspects of family life," Swensen said. "Once we began exploring the idea, we were very excited by what we found."

"The general theme of the exhibition was family, and particularly parenthood," Larsen said. "Although our exhibition didn't cover the full range of possible relationships or emotions, I think it did a good job of showing the good and the bad and the complexity of these kinds of relationships."

From portraits of modern Madonnas to sculptures of dogs and children, the exhibition featured a variety of media. Each artist brought a different perspective to the exhibition, looking to their own lives and families for subject matter.

In a panel discussion held at BYU, ceramic artist Janis Wunderlich said her work was a way to express thoughts and emotions about her family.

"I try hard to integrate my art-making and family life," she said. "My entire universe is my family."

Viewers came away with a fresh outlook on the challenges and blessings of being part of a family.

"There is a lot of hurt, pain, worry and anxiety that comes from being a parent, or a child, but in the end the family is really a beautiful, positive thing," Larsen said.

Swensen emphasized "what a rich and beautiful subject the family really is — regardless of the shortcomings and imperfections."

A juried student show exploring similar themes is still on display on the fourth floor of the BYU Harris Fine Art Center.

The exhibition was put on by the BYU visual art department's Faith in Works Committee and included works by Lee Udall Bennion, Emily Fox, Justin Hackworth, Lisa Jackson, Brian Kershisnik, Emily McPhie, Annie Poon, Madison Smith, Christopher Thornock and Janis Wunderlich.