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New Harmony: Another world floats beneath the surface of a Ken Baxter painting

Published: Sunday, March 3 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Sugar House resident and painter Ken Baxter poses in his home and studio surrounded by his works in 2005. Ken in his early life painted historical city scapes along with the beauty of nature.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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Last week I bought a painting, an oil titled “Alpine Church.” It’s small — just 6 inches by 9 inches — but it was painted by one of the best: Ken Baxter, the Utah teacher and mentor who said, “Planning a painting is like planning my day, perhaps my life.”

I didn’t buy the piece as a financial investment, however.

I bought it as a spiritual investment.

When I saw it, I felt another world floating beneath the surface.

It is a painting of a small, wooden church in the wildwood — a real “Little Brown Church in the Dale.”

In the background, the sun is setting — not in a spectacular way, but in a warm glow. It’s the same shade and quality of light, in fact, that beams from the windows of the tiny chapel. The soft yellow light suggests oil lamps are burning inside.

The wisps of dark smoke curling from the chimney mean a wood-burning stove is hard at work warming the room.

A brook, a bridge and a stand of evergreens round out the scene.

As I stood pondering the colors, it seemed to me the sun had retreated from the world, taking its warmth, light and security with it.

But the sun had left behind some comfort — this little church lit by oil and warmed by wood.

I’m one who believes whatever a viewer sees in a painting is in the painting, whether the artist intended it or not.

And what I saw in Baxter’s little church was this:

The sun must depart. Chill and darkness must come into the world.

But during its stay, the sun helped the trees grow so humanity could burn wood for warmth.

It gave the world fuel to burn for light.

But we must be careful to keep a full supply of such things on hand.

We need to make sure we are prepared to get through the frosty darkness until the sun returns again.

Our lives are little chapels in the wilderness, waiting for the return of the light.

EMAIL: jerjohn@deseretnews.com

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