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New Harmony: Impress me with your spirituality

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Columnist Jerry Johnston writes about how he "did a lot of impressionistic looking this week at the Spiritual & Religious Art Exhibition."

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News archives

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One thing I like about impressionistic art is it gives the viewer a chance to be creative along with the artist.

Call it impressionistic looking.

And I did a lot of impressionistic looking this week at the Spiritual and Religious Art Exhibition in Springville.

That painting of a woman in white covered with red squiggles.

Were the red threads from the Jewish Kaballah?

Were they meant to be the blood of the Lamb?

Were they the woman’s scarlet sins?

And that ghostly figure of a woman filled with swallows and the dome of a church.

Were we in Capistrano?

Did it represent her return to her faith?

Was it our return, at death, to the throne of God?

So much art, so little time.

And at this year’s exhibition there’s a ton of imagination at work from painters and patrons alike.

In fact, according to the director, Dr. Rita R. Wright, we’re seeing more abstract and impressionistic art from painters from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than ever before.

My personal theory is that Mormon artists are trying to become more universal.

Others claim that LDS artists are simply moving into the mainstream of the culture.

Let me say there are works in the show from people of other faiths as well, which makes the Springville Art Museum a gathering place of not only good art, good people.

O course, along with all those impressionistic pieces, there are plenty of realistic and representational works. Realism has always religion’s bread and butter. Among those, I found myself favoring the photographs over the paintings.

I looked a long while at Brian A. Buroker’s photograph of a contemplative cowboy in a Utah graveyard.

And Gretchen Faulk’s Muslim man at prayer quietly calmed my soul.

But I think Gerry Johnson’s photo from behind the Pieta in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris left the deepest imprint. The photo pares piety down to its pure and simple essence: light shining in the darkness.

On wall after wall in the museum, the work of established artists (Brian Kershisnik, Pilar Pobil and Dennis Smith) has been mixed and matched with work from novices on the rise. And though Wright can quickly pick out the paintings by young folks, I found myself amazed at how accomplished today’s budding artists can be.

I’d like to fill 20 pages of the newspaper with photos of what I saw, but — given the stingy nature of my editors — you may want to visit www.smofa.org on the Web.

Better yet, drop down to Springville for a personal viewing.

I guarantee the things you see will leave an impression.

Especially the impressionism.

Email: jerjohn@desnews.com

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