PROVO A new bookstore and art gallery seeks to bring high-end literature and art to complement the culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Dubbed Olivewood, the name comes from the imagery of biblical times and the artistic sophistication of Italy.
The book, art and media store opened about eight months ago on North University Avenue as a representative of Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship products, associated with Brigham Young University. Formerly called Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, the institute produces scholarly works that are now distributed through the store. The foundation's name was changed after Elder Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died in 2004.
All of his writings are available at the store, as are the scholarly works of other LDS authors, including Hugh Nibley, Truman Madsen and M. Catherine Thomas, said Peter Johnson, one of the owners. A filmmaker and former head of the BYU film department, Johnson directed "Journey of Faith," which depicts the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi and his family's journey from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. to the New World, and its sequel, "Journey of Faith: The New World." The first movie was filmed on the Arabian Peninsula and the second in South America.
The store also represents artists Joseph Brickey, Robert Boyd and Adam Abrams. Its parent company and institute partner is Amalphi Publishing, named after the Italian city on the Mediterranean Coast.
"It's a blend of bookstore and art gallery," Johnson said.
While the art and scholarly books are for sale, one display case offers items rich in LDS Church history that are not for sale. It includes an original copy of the Book of Mormon; copies of the death masks of church founder Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, both martyred in Carthage, Ill., on June 27, 1844; a reproduction of the golden plates from which Joseph Smith said he translated the Book of Mormon; and other artifacts.
A Neal A. Maxwell Reading Room provides comfortable, home-atmosphere seating in front of a flickering fireplace under a portrait of the late apostle.
"We're dedicated to the finest of art," Johnson said. "We just decided for our little niche we wanted to go for quality."
LDS art still hasn't achieved the sophistication, acclaim or interest of art critics from the leading art centers of Chicago or New York. "The great critics are not yet flocking to Utah," Brickey said, "but the subjects merit it. LDS history is filled with great subject matter."
Boyd, who creates his art initially with his camera, eschews calling them photographs. He specializes in LDS temples but also produces many of the store's prints that are for sale.
"Rather than just photograph a subject, Boyd interprets it," Johnson said.
So far, Boyd has some 200 images of temples but hasn't yet photographed all of them.
"How do you keep up with President (Gordon B.) Hinckley?" Johnson quipped about the temple-building LDS Church president.
"A temple is where high culture and the arts merge with religious truth and principle," Brickey said.
LDS culture has gotten past the pioneer survival mode and is progressing toward a higher standard in the arts, he said.He sees truth and beauty as a basic standard. The goal of Olivewood is to take it a step further toward refining both creativeness and scholarship, Brickey said.