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'Practicing Charity': Art exhibit depicts women doing the 'noble'

Published: Thursday, April 24 2014 5:05 a.m. MDT

"Climbing Mother" by Brian Kershisnik is on display at the Church History Museum as part of the "Practicing Charity: Everyday Daughters of God" exhibit.

Provided by the Church History Museum

A mother carrying two young children. A woman giving a hug to a friend. Ruth of the Bible gathering corn in the field.

The acts seem simple on the surface but in reality make a big difference.

“There’s something celebratory about the every day,” said Laura Hurtado, global art acquisitions curator at the Church History Museum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “There’s something noble being manifest.”

The daily deeds of women such as these are the subject of the museum’s exhibit “Practicing Charity: Everyday Daughters of God.” The focus of the exhibit, as explained in an exhibit brochure, is to “help us see how the everyday things we do can teach us to be better sons and daughters of God.”

The idea for the exhibit emerged from a combination of oral histories and a personal interest Hurtado had in celebrating women. She compiled the exhibit using the work of Latter-day Saint artists known for painting predominantly women. Pieces by Lee Udall Bennion, Brian Kershisnik and Kathleen Peterson come together to create the exhibit and what Hurtado referred to as a “conversation” about the beauty of and faith behind everyday acts.

“We’re not perfect, but there are everyday things we do that are holy, that manifest our testimonies,” Hurtado said. “You often see women as mothers, and I wanted to expand that visual heritage and show women being good friends and manifesting baptismal covenants by giving a hug, women reading, women playing instruments, women serving each other.”

Hurtado explained part of the motivation behind the exhibit came from the tendency women have to put themselves under pressure. She said many women believe they need to do things perfectly, but that’s not what life is about. The title “Practicing Charity” was thoughtfully selected to point to the idea of life experiences being an opportunity to prepare and try through daily actions.

“I hope people get an appreciation for the messiness of life,” Hurtado explained. “Nothing is quite perfect. It’s a process, and in those daily activities we are doing something noble.”

Peterson further expanded upon the idea of practice as being the purpose behind life and God’s plan for his children.

“We will probably never be perfect, at least on this earth, but we can practice,” Peterson said in an online video about the exhibit. “And that’s what we’re doing. Every morning we get up and we practice, try a little harder, do our best, try and let go of the mistakes we’ve made and move on.”

Although the exhibit’s title includes “Everyday Daughters of God,” the exhibit offers a faith-promoting experience to both male and female guests through the subjects displayed.

“I feel more of a connection to God who is helping me become something, rather than waiting for me to be something splendid before he has any time for me,” Kershisnik said in an online companion video to the exhibit explaining his artistic process. “He is participating with me, alongside me, much as I try to do with my children in their mistakes: letting them make mistakes but not abandoning them in the midst of those.”

An activity guide with a word search, matching game, questions to answer and more is available at the exhibit, creating an interactive element, especially for younger guests. Additionally, a Personal Progress and Faith in God workbook was created to help young women and Activity Days girls adapt their exhibit experience to fulfill program requirements.

Hurtado said youth groups are welcome to come to the exhibit at any time to complete the projects in conjunction with the Personal Progress and Faith in God requirements and notes that finished experiences will need to be signed off by leaders.

Thanks to an online version of the exhibit, people all over the world can experience the beauty displayed by the “practicing” women. The website includes digital versions of some of the paintings, explanatory text and interviews with the artists.

Hurtado received feedback from a woman in India who saw the online exhibit and referred to it as a “boon to her soul.”

“I hope there is an image that speaks to someone’s personal experience and is an image they can identify with,” Hurtado said.

“Practicing Charity: Everyday Daughters of God” will be on display at the Church History Museum through Sept. 14. The online version of the exhibit is available at history.lds.org/exhibit/practicing-charity.

If you go …

What: “Practicing Charity: Everyday Daughters of God”

Where: Church History Museum, 45 N. West Temple

When: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., through Sept. 14

Web: history.lds.org/exhibit/practicing-charity

Phone: 801-240-3310

Email: wbutters@deseretnews.com, Twitter: WhitneyButters

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