Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mormon Art

Have you ever wondered why Mormon art is so kitschy? I liked a lot of it when I was little, especially if it featured animals prominently somewhere in it. I think the now classic Arnold Friberg rendition of Abinadi standing in chains before Noah was probably my favorite (the jaguars really did it for me).


Friberg's obsession with superhero arms and tiny heads are probably what made him an instant hit among little boys like myself and Utah farmers.

(11-year-old head on college athlete body)

(the man of steel)

(shrunken head Viking father)

The Utah thing might explain why Mormons have long loved this portrait of Cowboy Jesus:


More recently the Mormon Jesus has been reinterpreted as the Fuzzy Bear Jesus.


Either way he's a hit with the young women of the ward.


And he really knows how to connect with your troubled son.


These paintings are unarguably bad, but for me the most testimony-damaging picture of all was probably Clark Kelly Price's "When the Angels Come". It's absolutely awful and I'm pretty sure the spirits of the pioneers who went through these kinds of grueling experiences cry every time someone looks at this painting.


It's a silly reason to doubt, I know, and I'm not saying it threw my testimony into a total tailspin, but poor quality of Mormon art had me scratching my head. How could such uninspired art be part of such an inspired tradition? How could something so ugly even sell?

The BYU Bookstore was always (and still is) a treasure trove of shitty Mormon art. It hurts to look at it. It hurts to think that people buy it and put it in their homes. I refused to accept it as part of my cultured heritage. Jesus, his Gospel, and his church deserved so much better.

Then again, at least it's not as awful as Jehovah's Witness art.

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