There have been LDS art contests in the past, either sponsored by LDS church institutions or by private organizations, but none have yet focused on Heavenly Mother as their theme. That changed this month with the newly announced A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest. Aiming to stimulate the visual and poetic expression of Heavenly Mother, as well as highlight the nascent divinity that resides in women as well as men, monetary prizes in excess of $2200 will be awarded to the best entries.
The contest accepts two-dimensional art submissions to be considered in its visual arts awards, and all forms of poetry for the poetry awards. The contest will accept submissions until March 4, 2014, after which award-winning entries will be chosen by prestigious judges Susan Elizabeth Howe (esteemed poet, playwright, and professor) and Herman Du Toit (former head of the Durban Art School and former head of museum research at BYU’s Museum of Art). Winning entries will be announced on May 11, 2014 (Mother’s Day) and they, with other merit-worthy entries, will be collected in an online gallery and a printed booklet for all to enjoy.
With the kick off of the contest’s website, amotherhere.com, an impressive collection of historical Mormon literature and music addressing Heavenly Mother has been hosted online. It contains works from early Mormon history, beginning with the work of William W. Phelps, up until the present. In addition, the site provides some historical analysis of the portrayals of Heavenly Mother in these and other artworks.
The contest is generously being sponsored by Exponent II, Peculiar Pages (publisher of literary anthologies like Fire in the Pasture and Monsters & Mormons) and LDS WAVE. However, to fully fund the prizes and pay judges, the contest is still looking for donations. Visit amotherhere.com to contribute or to find out more information.
I went to an art gallery lecture once by Brian Kershisnik where he was discussing his “Nativity”. Someone asked him if he planned to do more paintings of Christ and he said something to the effect that he objected to painting pictures of God for commercial purposes on a deeply moral level.
I understand the church as an institution uses the image of God to reach out to people so that they can more easily connect with the scriptures and to visually communicate our beliefs about His corporeal nature, but by demanding an image of God to be available for every scripture or idea associated with Him it creates a commercial market. We end up with images of Jesus like he’s schilling for a teeth-whitening commercial. I recall an interview with Pat Bagley where he said that he once came up with the idea to start a business where he would paint the picture of a dearly deceased in heaven with Jesus, but despite his loss of faith, he couldn’t even bring himself to follow through with the plan. When I read that, I thought, sadly, but now that he’s mentioned it, it is only a matter of time before some enterprising member-artist does.
I imagine that the intent in offering monetary prizes in this contest is to express appreciation for the value of art, as well as doing a little toward enabling artists and poets (who after all, need to eat like anyone else) to continue to perform the important work that they do. It’s a simple instance of watering what we want to grow.
Go to any art gallery in the world, and along with Greek mythology, Biblical and religious themes have been the major source of inspiration for much of the art of the past few millenia. Most of the artists were paid for their work. Michelangelo, for example, received the 16th century equivalent of £320,000 for painting the Sistine Chapel.
A commercial market is simply a demonstration of a widespread desire for something, and the aspiration to own a picture of Jesus seems to me not unworthy. One would of course hope that the images would end up being of good quality and artistic value (although tastes vary), but I see no inherent problem with the creation of an abundance of artistic images of Jesus. Or Heavenly Mother, for that matter.
Sarah, you a fan of JKirk? We was working on something last year, don’t know if it’s finished yet…
@Cameron, J Kirk plans to finish that piece for the contest.
@SusanS: I doubt art contests is what Kershisnik is talking about. We might want to distinguish between commercial purposes and offering incentives. BYU offers students contests with monetary awards for writing on religious topics and the church creates international art competitions too. These are hardly commercial ventures in the sense of creating a large source of revenue for the writers/artists. They are not writing to appease the masses (a transformers film), but to encourage scholarly/artistic endeavors. They help introduce newcomers in industries where they would otherwise struggle to be discovered.
Of course, one should strive for “purity of motive” in religious matters, but then one would have to worry about any book that has a price attached to it, anything publicly offered at all, like say one’s comments on a blog or a paper given at a conference. It extends far beyond contests. Hunger for prestige/praise, getting others to simply agree with you and be persuasive (think Korihor), seems as problematic as hunger to make the largest sum. But since it is a problem in general in religious discourse, I appreciate you pointing it out. Thanks!