OREM — When a Utah Valley University art student approached him about putting his work on exhibit and donating a piece to benefit the school's art scholarship fund, Greg Olsen harked back to a time when somebody helped him.
"Years ago, I had a one-man show. I had a patron who supported me for a whole year while I worked on pieces for the show," Olsen said. "The agreement was such that at the end we were supposed to split the profits. When it came time to do that, he handed it all to me and said 'Someday you can do something for someone else.' So anytime I can help, I like to."
Olsen said that's also why he enjoys being a mentor to the art students at UVU, sharing tips and some of his exceptional experiences.
For the donation piece, he elected to do a depiction of Christ contemplating the fact that while foxes and birds have dens and nests, the son of man has nowhere on the Earth to lay his head.
"It's somewhat a solitary piece as Christ thinks about his mission and what lies ahead of him," Olsen said.
Olsen said he's been burning the midnight oil to finish the piece.
"It's been a very enjoyable piece to do. It came together in quite a timely manner and that's not always the case."
In fact, Olsen chuckled, the paint may not even be completely dry by the time it's unveiled.
"Nowhere to Lay His Head" will be sold at the exhibition with the proceeds going directly to the student scholarship fund.
Two other new pieces will be introduced at the event as well.
"Out of the Wilderness" depicts Christ emerging from his 40-day fast and looking at what is to come.
The frame — made by a friend of Olsen's — looks like pieces of a battered cross.
"It's really a breathtaking combination," Olsen said.
The third new piece is a Christmas piece with Santa putting finishing touches on a wooden train for a child.
Although he's well known for his inspirational religious art, Olsen wants people to recognize that he does all kinds of pieces including landscapes and some impressionistic art.
"I do lot of other things. I enjoy lots of different things," he said.
Olsen's artwork will be on display and for sale at the public exhibition Dec. 6-17 at the Woodbury Art Museum at the University Mall in Orem.
Other works will be on sale throughout the exhibition and can be purchased by contacting Kyle Tresner, assistant dean for the School of the Arts at 801-361-4760. Prints will also be sold in the campus bookstore.
The art exhibit has everyone in the UVU School of the Arts excited, said Tresner.
He said Inez Harward simply gathered her courage and invited Olsen to participate, something that surprised the administration.
"This is student-led, student-envisioned, students will even be serving (the dinner) that night," Tresner said. "All the proceeds will go to establishing a mentoring fund for student scholarships."
Olsen, an Idaho native, has created inspirational paintings that are usually of Christ and his life on Earth that can now be found in 20 of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' temples throughout the world.
His works reflect a sensitivity and grace that he hopes touch those who see the images.
"From an early age, I have always been fascinated by paintings that create mood, emotion and atmosphere, especially those paintings that lift me and transport me to some far-off place," Olsen said.
"My hope is that in these images you will find something familiar, something which will resonate and remind you of what is important in your own life."
If you go ...
What: Greg Olsen Exhibition
When: Dec. 6-17
Where: Woodbury Art Museum, University Mall, 575 E. University Parkway, Orem
Hours: Tuesday 11-8 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday 11-5 p.m.
Cost: free admission
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.