Spiritual and Religious exhibit honors Utah's best

Published: Saturday, Dec. 18 2010 4:15 p.m. MST

Artists are "prescient," he says. "They are often the first to recognize the ominousness in the air." Artists, he says, sense the need for a spiritual boost as things get darker in the world, and they respond. So the number of highly significant pieces in this show is higher than ever. "Of course, there's always room for improvement. We fully expect next year's show to be better than this year's."

But there are plenty of pieces here to savor and enjoy, he says. "Some are historical; some are interpretative; some are thought-provoking."

For example, there's Michael J. Bingham's "Good and Evil," a wood sculpture of a church spire that appears to be rotting at the bottom. There's Patrick Marco Devonas' "Jesus," which "a lot of people have told me is their favorite portrait of Christ ever," Swanson says. There's Jean J. Clay's cloth mache figure of Gordon B. Hinckley that is very endearing. There's Doc Christensen's "Sacrament Meeting," which looks like a familiar scene until you notice who is passing the sacrament. There's Adam Abram's "No Greater Love," which shows Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross. "The scriptures say there was a storm, but no one ever paints the rain," Swanson says. "Here, you see the wet hair, the storm. It's very emotive."

Brian Kershisnik's "Descent From the Cross" is equally compelling, Swanson says. "Every few years Brian does a piece on a major scale. He always has something to say that penetrates deeper." In this case, you see grieving family and friends taking down Christ's body, "but you also see beyond the veil, the cavalcades of angels, who are also weeping. Even though they know more about what's going on in the big picture, they, too, can't hold back the tears of pain and grief. It's very powerful," Swanson says. In fact, it was the piece he selected for his Director's Award.

One of the things Swanson also finds very exciting about this year's show is the number of "artists that I've never heard of before. I do try to keep up with the state's artists, but there are always new ones coming along. I had never heard of Dennis Domingo. But after viewing his harrowing sculpture, I will never forget him."

The same could be said for others. "I love this show," Swanson says. The sense of power, the complexity, the emotion — these are things that will touch the soul and the mind. "They say that religion comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. That's what you get here. It's just an amazing, amazing show."

e-mail: carma@desnews.com

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