Max D. Weaver made a career of teaching art, and he made sure he could show as well as tell his students how to do it.
Nearly seven years after "retirement," Weaver is still the model of a working artist.He pursued art as a student himself at Davis High School, Utah State University, Brigham Young University, the University of Southern California and Long Beach State. Then he set out to teach art, first at Helper Junior High School in Carbon County, then at Cyprus High School in Magna, Logan High School and Southern Utah State College before joining the BYU faculty in 1961.
When he retired nearly 21 years later, his colleagues regarded him as an artist/craftsman/educator. "It would be foolish to guess which part is dominant," wrote Warren B. Wilson. Although he isn't officially teaching anymore, Weaver is still very much the artist/craftsman.
Max Weaver's home is a veritable museum of his artistic abilities, adorned with paintings, pastel drawings, batiks, lithographs, woodcut prints, metal jewelry, ceramic and wood mosaics, and ceramic pots.
Many of his works were on display recently at BYU in a one-man show in the Secured Gallery of the Harris Fine Arts Center. Among them were several paintings that reflect his love of what he calls "red rock country" in southern Utah.
"I like the wide, open spaces, the shape of the mountains, the contrasts of red mountains against teal green sagebrush," he said.
"After a storm, it's like going to an amphitheater. It's fascinating to watch the shadow patterns going across the flat country, then hitting the monoliths."
What may look ordinary to most people, Weaver sees with an artist's eye. Finding beauty in seemingly ordinary things is a skill he attributes to his grandmother's teaching. A sixth-grade teacher recognized Weaver's budding talent and had him decorate bulletin boards for seasons and holidays. His love of beauty and his gift for creating it have been expressed ever since.
In warm seasons, 30 to 40 ceramic pots of various sizes and shapes can be found drying in the Weavers' back yard, where the artist sets up shop under shade trees. (He fires the pieces at BYU and Utah Valley Community College.) During the winter, he commits several hours a day to working in his carport-turned-studio, where hundreds of books on art theory and method line the shelves.
But a book was never enough. "I decided I was actually going to demonstrate," said Weaver. "The students respect a teacher who can do the work, not just talk about it."
The array of media that were represented in his one-man show attests to the fact that Max Weaver learned how to do it all, capturing the beauty in the commonplace as he worked. Among the 40 oil paintings were those of Mount Timpanogos as seen from an orchard near his home, a row of mailboxes (including one prominently displaying his name) along a country road, and kids pulling inner tubes home along a snow-laden street as sunset pinkens the sky.
One gallery wall was devoted to scenes done in pastel. Some 50 ceramic pots in assorted sizes, shapes and designs, and intricately detailed silver jewelry completed the exhibit. Weaver says he doesn't have a favorite among the varied media he works with, but enjoys "whatever I'm working on at the time."
It's an understatement to call this artist versatile - or busy.
It's a testament to his dedication that all of the paintings that were in the exhibit have been created since he and his wife Ruth returned from an LDS mission to Nauvoo, Ill., in 1984. The hours in the studio are sandwiched between serving as chairman of the Orem City Art Board, working in the Provo LDS Temple, welcoming visitors at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, and enjoying 35 grandchildren.
"If I had four lifetimes, I'd like to be a potter, a painter, a jeweler and a printmaker," Weaver said.
To see his work is to know he's already made a good start in one lifetime, enriching the lives of others as he's enriched his own.
"To me, art is a personal way of life, unique in every respect to the individual artist," he said. "It embraces body, soul and spirit. This is reflected in everything the artist does."