Perhaps adding an art appreciation course or two to law-school curricula - and some remedial crash courses in the beauty and power of abstraction for some legislators - could salvage a striking mural that enhances the Supreme Courtroom in the new Scott M. Matheson Courthouse.
"Capitol Reef" by Utah artist V. Douglas Snow is a colorful 300-square-foot painting that does not detract from the dignity or atmosphere of the courtroom. It certainly does not go unnoticed, but it complements the woodwork and decor with a spectrum of brilliant hues that liven the room without undermining its purpose.It would be a shame to see it go.
A verdict concerning the evocative piece apparently will be rendered by the public, who will voice their opinions following tours of the new courthouse this week. Instead of polling the general populace, most of whom likely never again will set foot in the courtroom, perhaps a better sampling should include a representative group of felons who may visit the court on appeal.
Either way, the verdict will not be a unanimous one. You can guarantee that with art, particularly in abstract form. If Rep. Gerry Adair, R-Roy, saw in Snow's mural a "bloody, steaming hamburger," it may have been because he toured the building just before lunchtime. Artistic beauty, like undercooked beef, is in the eye of the beholder. One person's Big Mac is another's filet mignon.
Another legislator, Rep. Ray Short, R-Holladay, said the vibrant painting made him feel like fighting. That does not seem entirely incongruous with today's judicial system, though others reported the imagery had the opposite effect, which was the artist's admitted aim.
Art often evokes divergent opinions and emotions, as do legal arguments at all levels including the Utah Supreme Court. Snow's objective of portraying an abstract Southern Utah landscape that expressed the notion of conflict and resolution is already halfway there, given the controversy. Now justices, legislators and others should give the mural some time and a second look.
A Kodachrome backdrop will not undermine the conduct of serious judicial business that tends by its nature to often be black and white.