As I started preparing family lessons using the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s new Come, Follow Me manual, I was struck by the quantity of art. In addition to photos and screenshots from Church-produced videos, the manual includes 78 reproductions of paintings or stained-glass windows. Many lessons – particularly in the first half of the year – include two or three paintings. But as I started going through the art, noting the artists, I saw a pattern: Brent Borup, Del Parson, Walter Rane, Dana Mario Wood, Walter Rane, Tom Holdman, Greg K. Olsen, Robert T. Barrett, Jorge Cocco, Simon Dewey. They’re all men. It’s not until the 20th painting that we get to a woman artist: Liz Lemon Swindle’s Against the Wind, showing the Savior lifting Peter out of the water in Matthew 14.
Out of 76 paintings for which I could identify the artist and the artist’s gender, only 9 were by women artists – that’s just under 12 percent.* What’s more, 5 of those 9 were by just one artist, Liz Lemon Swindle. Even though Walter Rane has 12 paintings and Del Parson has 6, those only make up a quarter of all the paintings by men, leaving room for a wide array of lesser known artists to be featured.
Why does this matter? We want to be involved in organizations where we can see ourselves (or see what we’d like to be). In India, adolescent girls who saw women in politics had higher educational aspirations for themselves. When women in Peru and Mexico saw female role models in software-coding jobs, they were much more likely to apply for those jobs. When schoolgirls in Uganda saw a movie in which a Ugandan girl overcame challenges to succeed as a chess master, their grades improved. If girls see women artists, it’s not a stretch to believe that they’ll feel empowered to contribute their art. And who’s to say that it might not extend even to other contributions. The current structure of the Church precludes equal representation in key areas: Women can’t see themselves as the prophet or as apostles. So why not seek equal (or more than equal) representation in areas where we can?
Is it difficult to find women gospel artists? No. In addition to the women featured in the manual – Liz Lemon Swindle, Sandra Rast, Kamille Corry, Sandy Freckleton Gagon, and Annie Henrie – I asked for suggestions for women who do gospel-related art from friends on Facebook and got more than a few within a couple of hours. Here are some who have created clearly representational New Testament related art (i.e., the kind of art that we see in the manual): Rose Datoc Dall, Meagan Getz, Emily McPhie, Lynne Millar, Jenedy Paige, Kathleen Peterson, Katherine Ricks, Minerva Teichert, Elspeth Young. I’m sure there are many more.
Achieving representation takes a little bit of effort. But women represent roughly half the world population and they’re making beautiful, relevant art, so it seems like in the next manual, perhaps we can do better than 12 percent and let our sisters see themselves in the manuals in one more way. We can also show our sisters that they can worship through art and have that worship recognized just like that of their male counterparts.
* One painting is unattributed, at the end of the lesson for December 23-29. And one is “Peter Delivered from Prison,” by A.L. Noakes, about whom I was unable to find additional information.
I will suppose the book planners looked widely to see what was available, and selected the most suitable art based on all sorts of factors (some artistic, some not). I’m okay with that. I feel confident that there was no misogony, no hatred of women, no oppression, no sexism, and no unfairness in the selection process. Indeed, I suppose the process was entirely fair. I wish success to both male and female artists.
As I understand, the Church’s art and music competitions are open equally and fairly to male and female.
Maybe the next iteration will include works from different artists? I’ll be okay with that, too.
ji, the issue David brings up isn’t misogyny, deliberate or otherwise. It’s representation. And representation isn’t always possible. It’s clearly possible that the women artists weren’t licensing their work. But I doubt they’d be less likely than men. It takes more work sometimes to be representative, because the networks we have are likely to be more male and more white than society at large (for all sorts of reasons), but it boggles the mind that the manual writers couldn’t find more than five women, and could barely crack 10% of the paintings as being from women.
Are you suggesting that the paintings be chosen by the gender of the artist as opposed to the merits of the paintings being considered? Quota-based selection punishes people for not being in the right group, while merit-based selection brings out quality.
If the Church were to go the route of quota-based selection, should the upcoming hymnal and Children’s Songbook revision also be done according to the gender of the artists submitting their works? Or should it be done according to the merits of the individual hymns and songs? After all, the Children’s Songbook is pretty top-heavy with songs written by women; it’s as if the book is saying that we men don’t have anything we can contribute to a child’s spiritual development; a thought that could be pretty demeaning to me as a Primary teacher and Music Leader . . . if I were the sort of person who thought of myself as part of a gender quota group. Should Janice Kapp Perry and Sally DeFord be told to stop writing as they are robbing the men of their fair representation? Of course not — God did not assign talents according to a quota.
Meanwhile, should the Church stop accepting hymns from men as the women are underrepresented in the Hymnal?
Should the annual Church Music Submissions and the annual Art Competition have a little box to check to tell the gender of the artist so the judges can throw out works produced by the wrong gender?
I suspect that choosing paintings for the Come, Follow Me manual was probably conducted the same way that hymns and songs are chosen in the annual Church Music Submission and artwork for the annual Arts Submission — with no name or personal information attached. The piece is rated on it’s merit alone without the name or other details about the artist influencing the judges. What could be more fair?
Thank you, David, for seeing this and pointing it out! As a female artist, the very first thing I did when I got the book was look through at all the art. While there is some beautiful work in the book, I noticed exactly what you’ve pointed out and was so disappointed by it. Especially that using multiple images from some artists, meant they missed an opportunity to include so many more pieces by other artists– both female and in a variety of style that is not traditional and representational (like Jorge Cocco’s more impressionist style). The Church holds an international art competition every few years and has access to so much great art that they have judged themselves and collected from male AND female artists all over the world. It’s so disappointing to see them fall back on only the small handful of LDS artists they always go to and stay so heavily male. A change could be made without suffering the quality of what gets printed and it would be so much more inclusive for a population that is made up of many more people than just white men. Thank you for your well-thought article and for bringing conversations like this to the table. Awareness is the first step.
Identity politics with an argument for equal representation in illustrations for the “Come, Follow Me” manual? Seriously? I used to enjoy reading posts in the Times and Seasons.
Thank you for this important post. It’s healing just to know there are at least some people paying attention, even if it’s not yet those in charge.
Bruce: Thanks for your comments. With many of the paintings in the manual, no name would need to be attached, as many, many members of the Church are intimately familiar with the work of Walter Rane, Del Parson, and others. I propose that sometimes searches turn up the most popular, well-known items, not necessarily the best on merit. With art, there is also an enormous degree of subjectivity. I have not proposed a 50% quota. But I have proposed that the skew we observe in the manual may not be an accurate reflection of the gender-distribution of quality art, since — again — it can be easy to pick familiar paintings that are famous among our faith (as many of the paintings are). By the way, I went through the first 30 songs in the Children’s Songbook, and the music is written by 52% women. The lyrics are higher, at 76% women. As I say, I’m not proposing 50% representation in everything.
Yet women are profoundly underrepresented in many visible aspects of Church life. In our last General Conference, there were 30 male speakers and 4 women speakers (and 3 of the women speakers were in the General Women’s session). Since my daughter sees older versions of herself very little in General Conference or sitting on the stand on Sunday, then I’m happy for her to see more of herself in other places. In this case, there are a lot of women artists doing beautiful representational New Testament art, as evidenced in the links I’ve provided. So this is a nudge.
Old Man: Yes, super seriously.
Sam: Right there with you!
ji: What Sam said.
Cynthia and SB: Thank you.
Thank you for noticing this, David Evans. Representation is so important. You can’t be what you can’t see, and we owe our women and girls more than this.
“After all, the Children’s Songbook is pretty top-heavy with songs written by women,” says Bruce. I wonder, what would you guess the representation of individual female vs. male contributors is? Since I apparently have nothing better to do today, I just went and did a cursory count (skipping any names with initials or that weren’t obviously male or female). Contributors to the Children’s Songbook are 60% female, 40% male. I’m not sure exactly what Bruce’s definition of “top heavy” is, but I doubt 60/40 qualifies. Curious to know what the hymnbook female to male contribution distribution is? It’s 20/80.
The problem I have with “merit based selection,” especially the logic in this case, is that it suggests that God apparently assigns [white] men a whole lot more talent than any other group. Is this true? Of course not.
If you’re running a company and you notice that 80% of your executive level employees are white men, you should recognize that a. there is a lot of well-researched and documented subconscious bias against women and people of color, and your company needs to start accounting for that in its hiring practices and b. your company is really missing out on a lot of important and diverse perspectives.
Go check out the Come Follow Me lesson helps for Young Women (and Young Men!) and look at how many talks in the resources are by men (spoiler alert: nearly all (over 90%) of them). Count the references for Heavenly Father vs. Heavenly Mother (spoiler alert: 100/0). In the church, we teach that gender is important and eternal and that men and women are fundamentally different, but then we have men give talks on what it means to be a woman and mother and hear hear 96.3% male speakers in the general sessions of General Conference.
This isn’t just about art. This is about making room for other voices at every level.
The Come Follow Me manual isn’t an art contest. Surely there are thousands of pieces in the world that merit inclusion, pieces from a wide array of styles and created by people of diverse genders, races, and backgrounds. The pieces by white men may be more readily available since those are the ones the church has used forever, but it’s not hard to find amazing pieces by women and other groups.
Where are all the female permabloggers at T&S? Clean your own house first.
Thanks so much, ElleK. And if anyone hasn’t seen it, ElleK has an essay on representation in General Conference over at the Exponent: https://www.the-exponent.com/somethings-missing-in-general-conference-where-are-the-women/.
Am I surprised by this? Why should I be? This is the same church that routinely didn’t have women say prayers in General Conference until just a few years ago. The LDS church is loaded with subtle aspects of sexism.
Thanks, David Evans. Since we’ve been talking about the Children’s Songbook, I just remembered this other piece I wrote about male vs. female verbiage in Primary songs: https://www.the-exponent.com/masculine-and-feminine-verbiage-in-the-childrens-songbook/
So even if the song writers lean slightly more female than male, the amount of named women (7%) vs. men (93%) and female (19%) vs. male (81%) pronouns/gendered language in the songs are overwhelmingly male.
What percentage of the people reading the manual will ever think about the gender or any other demographic information about the artists whose art is included? This is an issue that an extremely tiny portion of people, mostly consisting of artists and representation hawks will ever pay any attention to. Far more relevant to the vast majority of church membership is the inclusion of women as subjects of the art. When I get home, I’ll be interested to look through the manual and see how it fares on that score.
This identity politics nonsense is getting really old.
My favorite part about this post is that it has sent me searching out the artists you included. That’s really what’s going on here–it’s not intentional squelching of women’s creative productions, it’s just dudes choosing art that they like and are familiar with. I’m a women, I’m an artist, I’m LDS and I only knew Minerva in the list you throw up. No identity politics going on, just some good chatter about spreading the possibilities for so many artists that are less well known. Thank you Dave.
I propose that 50% of all people not birthed by a male be eliminated for the good of the species. Kindness isn’t something one considers when balancing the universe.
I have a suggestion for you, Dave. Instead of simply sharing a group-sourced list of female artists, take some time to review the portfolios of those artists and then do a few mock-up chapters (say, the first three) of Come Follow Me, telling us which works you would recommend as substitutes for the ones actually used. You will find this a harder task than you might expect. For starters, contrary to your statement, not all of the artists you’ve listed have many representational New Testament works. Of those that do, the works might not fit the subject for which you need a work. Do a follow up post, once you’ve rounded some up, with images or links to images, and then calculate what percentage of female representation you were able to achieve.
The Church, of course, has an even harder task. They have to own or have the publication rights for each of those works. Getting those can be tough. Selling a work and all rights to it to the Church, reserving nothing, isn’t always attractive for LDS artists, many of whom generate more revenue from giclée reproductions than they do by selling their original works. (If you really want to support LDS artists of any sex, race, nationality, or sexual orientation, BUY ORIGINAL WORKS.) For some of the artists you mention, the Church does own works, displays them in temples, and–consistent with a self-imposed policy for original temple art–does not sell reproductions or publish them for other purposes.
The Church is making great strides on this, though it may not be apparent to those who aren’t watching. One of the grand purposes of the Church’s triennial International Art Competition has been to increase the quality and diversity of the Church’s art holdings, primarily for publications, since most members may never have the opportunity to visit the Church History Museum or Conference Center to see original works. In fact, a number of the male and female artists and works in the Come Follow Me manual are results of that effort. (Twenty years ago, would you have predicted that a Church manual would feature multiple paintings from an octogenarian Argentine cubist? I know I would not have.)
The 11th International Art Competition exhibition will begin at the Church History Museum within the next week. Do go, if you can, and report back (with images) for those of us not in Utah. (The list of purchase awards shows a commitment to supporting and gathering the work of female artists.)
When I read this, I wondered why only the painters were counted, but it appears that painters are credited, whereas the photographers are left anonymous.
Trevor, thanks for a serious and thoughtful response.
Dave, I am also growing weary of the identity politics card being repeatedly played in the bloggernacle.
Trevor: Thanks for your comment. In preparing this post, I went through the portfolios of a much longer list of crowdsourced artists, and I listed only those for whom I found representational art that I thought would be approprorate for the manuals. I did my best to link to those collections. I am aware of the challenges you highlight, which is why I note that representation is work. If 12% is the result of our great strides, then I’m just nudging us to continue making more great strides.
Trevor: I’m afraid I’m not based in Utah, so I’ll enjoy the results of the art competition once they are posted online.
Many: I’ve never been sure of what identity politics means (even after reading the Wikipedia entry https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_politics). But if it means nudging my community so that my daughter sees herself represented more in different ways in her church, then I guess I’m in.
Dave, it seems that had you been aware of the challenges, you would have mentioned them, acknowledging that the Church operates under a number of real constraints, rather than suggesting that the distribution of artists was a result of sexism and/or laziness. If you care about Mormon art, Mormon women artists, and what the Church is doing on that front, try reaching out to talk with Laura Allred Hurtado, the Church’s global acquisitions curator. Ask her your questions then post the transcript for us to read. This would be of real benefit to T&S readers.
Trevor: I did not accuse the Church of sexism or laziness. Thanks for engaging, and I appreciate that you would have preferred a different blog post than the one I wrote.
Smith, I’m a recent addition to T&S, but there are several women permabloggers who predate me. All of us have jobs, family and health issues. So sometimes we have to stop blogging as regularly. I’d love to have more women permabloggers and have sought some out. If you know of people you think would be a good fit feel free to suggest them. If you look through the posts you’ll see ones by Rosalynde Welch, Rachel Whipple, Mary Grey, Julie Smith and others. But I definitely would love to have more equal representation.
To the post, I’m loath to criticize too much without more data. We don’t know how many people are submitting works and, as an other commenter noted, how many are willing to sell the art to the Church on Church terms. Without knowing that information I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the Church on this. It may well be that they, like T&S, recognize the problem and are trying to increase the opportunities for women.
My daughter (14 years old) already thinks she is of no extra value for the ward. Her older brother organises and blesses sacrament. She resolves to at least take her homework during SM to spend her time wisely and I don’ t blame her. In her environment (outside church here in Europe) she sees women leaders, researchers, doctors etc everywhere . She notices in church things are quite different and wonders why.
Let me tell you that this upcoming generation of women (millenials and the ones after them) are not going to stay because they just don’t see how they can be themselves within the church’s framework. And I am struggling with the same sentiment.
More visible women, many many more. Give the women their power back, the power we used to have in the time of JS.
David Evans, you did say that “achieving representation takes a little bit of effort” I would say that statement directly implies laziness. And I don’t understand what your entire third paragraph has to do with your objection. I’m not disagreeing with the studies you cite, only failing to understand what those studies have to do with your observations about the use of art in the manual. Like Dsc, if you were objecting to the content of the art I would think it a reasonable objection that would be supported by the evidence you cite. But do you really think young girls are reading the art attributions in a church manual? I doubt even 1% of adults do that.
David, though I generally take the side of those that have been critical of some aspects of your post, I admire and thank you for your posted reactions to the critiques, notably, the civility and seeming absence of defensiveness. I also appreciate T&S in that the rest of the permas typically don’t come out swinging every time one of their fellow permas’ posts gets criticized. That seems to encourage independent thought over group think–which is not hard to find elsewhere.
KLC: I hear you. I’m not going to enter into a paragraph-by-paragraph defense of the post. I think that there are multiple explanations (besides a lack of art by women; I believe there is plenty of art by women) for what we observe, including not being mindful of this specific challenge (rather than laziness). But I don’t work at the Church, and I’m generally admiring of the people doing that work. I just thought highlighting this could prove a nudge in a direction that I see as positive. I’m sorry if it came across as any more “attack”-y than that; not my intention.
In terms of who notices the artists, I don’t have a survey of members. I just wanted to highlight something that I noticed. I don’t know if the people who notice art attributions is 1% or some much higher number, but it’s an issue that mattered to me, so I wrote about it.
Clark: ” there are several women permabloggers who predate me.”
Under “authors” there are 5 women (all of whom are listed last, interestingly), compared to 13 males. I see 6 listed as emeritus bloggers compare to 15 males (though a couple of names are ambiguous). 11 to 28 – better than the manual’s ratio on art, I guess.
Your statement “I’d love to have more women permabloggers and have sought some out” is probably equivalent to what the manual makers would say about the art. Perhaps D. Evans should write a post about the failings of T&S and BCC and the like next.
At least the purportedly sexist M* (at least if I believe what bloggers at BCC/T&S/FMH/FPR tell me) has a higher ratio of posts from women bloggers, even though females are a minority of permas over there.
I’ve never heard M* called sexist. (I used to blog there in its early days) Most of the frequent bloggers there are women. But I also confess I don’t read it regularly. As for the other points, being a relatively new member I can’t say too much. I’d imagine the ordering on the author page is coincidental but I honestly don’t know how it is generated. To the point about Latter-day Saint art, as I said in my comments I think it fair to bring up the numbers (as it is with T&S women bloggers) but it’s more problematic (IMO) to point to cause without more information. If the original post generates some concern if it wasn’t already there, then I think it’s a fruitful post. To T&S again I can but say I’ve invited various women to blog here but most felt they couldn’t do it for various reasons. I’ll certainly continue to look for people, but frankly the heyday of blogging is over and few find it that interesting compared to a decade ago. I also think that a lot of the main class of bloggers all were at BYU around the same time making it easier to find people but now harder as we’ve all entered middle age.
I’m sure you haven’t. Other bloggers have, but that’s a bit beside the point, I guess.
I don’t think this is a very fruitful post, because, as many comments here show, it seems more like an excuse to, once again (as usual), attack the church as sexist. Quite a few comments above are quite explicit in using this post as a way to attack all sorts of other “sexist” things (other than art manual representation) about the church.
Yes, above D. Evans claims he’s not accusing the church of sexism. That seems a bit like straining out gnats while swallowing camels. He’s clearly implying sexism, but avoiding stating it directly. Meanwhile, the comments that do explicitly accuse the church of sexism are not only allowed, D. Evans either doesn’t push back or actually states “thank you” to them for agreeing with him.
Just an FYI, the current bloggers appear to in alphabetical order by last name, and the 5 women bloggers have last names that are toward the end of the alphabet.
Why doesn’t T&S have as many female permabloggers as male permabloggers? Seems like putting your own house in order should be a higher priority than criticizing others.
I already said that, and many comments (mostly Clark’s) have addressed my concerns there. I suggest reading through the whole comments thread before posting. It’s common courtesy.
Smith & Co: I said thank you to people who were generous and kind about my post.
I believe outcomes can be sexist without there being any sexist intent.
Anyway, I think I’m going to sign off this discussion. Thanks to everyone who engaged. I intended to share something helpful; obviously not everyone saw it that way, but I’m grateful for those who didn’t impugn my motives. I love my Church.
The OP caused me to do a little looking. The most recent competition (the 11th International Art Competition) had five jurors — two men and three women — imagine that! See https://history.lds.org/article/11-international-art-competition-juror-biographies?lang=eng. Maybe we can love our Church after all. Well, the two men were listed first, and the three women after the men — but that seems to be based on alphabetic ordering by last name. And, they are all Caucasian. Oh my, can’t we do anything right?
Former T&S perma here, and a woman.
There is nothing wrong with this post. It mirrors discussions going on elsewhere in Mormon Studies. When an edited volume of historical essays (i.e., a collection of essays by various authors) came out a year ago, we had a robust discussion at Juvenile Instructor about the dearth of women contributors and the cause for it. The volume’s editor took part, and it was all very civil — and enlightening. The group Women in Mormon Studies was organized immediately after that discussion, with the goal of making editors and conference organizers aware of the women scholars who are qualified and available to contribute to projects.
It matters whether women are included in projects like that edited volume, or this Sunday School book, not just for readers but for writers and artists. Few potential contributors know about projects like these before they come out, when it is too late to raise their hands to contribute. If organizers and editors don’t actively look for qualified women contributors, then women are shut out of entire fields through no fault of our own. Every excuse cited in this thread is just that, an excuse, that has been answered and refuted time and time again. Women are no less qualified or skilled or interested or available than men, but the good old boy network that understandably turns to their familiar contacts needs to join the 21st century and remember that the rest of the human race also has something to offer. That takes awareness and effort, and the sneering and putdowns so evident in this thread needs to go the way of other troglodyte practices. Commenters should come back here in ten years and reread what they’ve said — and be ashamed of their backward, outdated ideas.
So because there’s so few females artists in Come Follow Me it’s not inspired and must not be that important.
Let me guess, are you upset women aren’t able to pass the sacrament too?
The Lord and His church don’t operate the way the world thinks they ought to. These things don’t matter.
These things don’t matter to you.
For those of us trying to keep our teen/pre-teenage daughters in the church, they matter a great deal.
Scm, I’ll simply note again that no priesthood is technically required to pass the sacrament, only to bless & administer it. The deacons in scripture don’t have the duty to pass the sacrament. That’s something that developed over time and is primarily a 20th century thing. I’d be shocked if this isn’t opened up sometime in the next decade along with ushering.
While I agree the Church isn’t tied to what the world wants, there are things quite doable in terms of the revelations we have. People who haven’t studied the history often don’t realize how many things developed in a somewhat arbitrary fashion and weren’t clear eternal revelations. Elder Oaks in particular is quite aware of the history and is very concerned and knowledgeable on these issues. This isn’t an issue of kowtowing to feminists especially non-Mormon ones. Rather it’s looking at what the revealed structures require and seeing how we can be more inclusive in terms of those things.
My initial comment may have been intemperate, but it was well intentioned. I will take D. Evans at his word in his most recent (last?) comment in the thread here; I feel he is not fully thinking through the implications of his post, but I see no reason to push him any more on it.
I also appreciate Clark’s attempts to find some good in the discussion and his pushback on my assumptions.
Ardis, on the other hand – I’m betting if I had posted something like that – full on insults and attacks (calling people ‘apostate’ instead of ‘troglodytes’ or saying they were ‘unfaithful’ or ‘steadying the ark’ instead of ‘backward and outdated’) – I would likely (and rightly so under the comment policy at T&S) have my comment deleted. But Ardis can hurl insults and get away with it. That was a downright abusive and rhetorically ugly comment.
I leave it as an exercise to the readers as to why she can get away with it, whereas those on the more “faithful/orthodox” side wouldn’t be allowed to be that intemperate (to put it mildly).
Please review the article, “Connecting Daughters of God with His Priesthood Power.”
“It’s clear that some callings in the Church require ordination to priesthood office, but we must be careful not to limit our women simply based on culture, history, false perceptions, or traditions.”
Many, many women (and men) have been pointing this out for years. I was surprised to finally see an acknowledgement in a church publication.
God bless you David Evans, for noticing this, for thoughtfully writing about it, and for the robust comments.
I studied to be an artist at BYU in the 70s. There were many women students during my time but only a few of us went on to have careers. Many of the men from my classes are enjoying successful careers nearing retirement. Among the younger generation of artists in the church, who I follow thanks to social media, I have noticed many qualified women who struggle to launch their careers while multitasking home and family. Yet they persist and improve their talent, and deserve work. *I* deserve work, but I look back on my life as an artist and the many volunteer projects I did for church/school events, for free, and it’s not much of a foundation for a later-in-life entry level career. So I applaud these younger artists, some of whom you named, some whose careers are quite successful already, but too many who are struggling that are unfamiliar to the church committeemen in charge of selecting work. They don’t even have to choose only from artists who are already doing devotional art. It is possible, after all, to commission work to suit from any qualified illustrator or artist.
Bless ElleK for pointing out (among other things) that the Lord didn’t endow only one demographic with more talent, and others for pointing out that just because one is oblivious to privilege, does not mean it doesn’t exist to harm others who must struggle without that privilege. And bless Ardis for the blunt and pithy comments that aren’t at all insulting, but hit the bullseye of the matter.
What you have noticed matters a great deal to those it affects, both men and women who see the sexism in the church. Sometimes it really does operate like a good old boys club, and changing that is long overdue.
I have to chuckle at Smith & Co.’s placing me on something other than the “faithful/orthodox” end of the spectrum. Nothing ugly, abusive, or intemperate about that!
Identifying systemic sexism is a nearly thankless task. Thank you, David Evans.
Systemic sexism can happen without any person in the room being sexist or having any ill will or even preference. Systems aren’t fixed by a handful of people deciding to be good. Systems are fixed by consistent active effort directed toward change. Queue up the pipeline and outreach and extra effort conversations. Some of those efforts appear to be generation scale work, but I’ve observed results on a much shorter time scale. .
To my eyes, 12% looks like systemic sexism and either we’re not trying or we are early in the process of trying to improve the system.
The issue is not whether there should be diverse representation in LDS art and publications. Of course there should be—not only of women, but for all vectors of diversity within the Church. However, simply crying, “There isn’t enough representation!” without delving deeper and trying to understand the roots of that, efforts to address it, what constraints are at play, etc., gets us nowhere. At best, it’s superficial thinking. At worst, it’s a basis for uncharitable judgments of others and unwarranted smugness.
Over the past year, the Church held a competition to attract the best of LDS art from around the world. Stated goals of the competition were to “shift our view of Latter-day Saint art from a centralized model to one that expansively captures new voices, expands our cultural legacy, and redefines our visual heritage.” The final exhibition includes works by artists from 26 different countries. The competition was organized under the direction of a woman. Three of the five jurors for the competition were women, with jurors from three continents. Works were presented to jurors anonymously. Seven out of ten of the juried merit award winners were women. Of the purchase awards–chosen by the Church’s museum acquisitions team–ten out of fifteen were for female artists. (Yes, the Church bought women’s art at a 2:1 ratio.)
Does that mean it’s time to hoist up the “Mission Accomplished” banner and pat ourselves on the backs? Absolutely not. But it is simply false to state that “we’re not trying,” that the Church is failing to “make a little bit of effort,” and is “not being mindful of this specific challenge.” Remaining ignorant of past and present efforts within the Church and failing to properly acknowledge them doesn’t move the ball down the field. Though I don’t believe it’s anyone’s intention here, it’s a slap in the face of the very people who are doing the most to *improve* the situation that Dave and others have observed.
If you care about Mormon art (including women artists, international artists, minority artists, LGBTQ artists, etc.), learn about them, follow them in social media, go to the galleries and museums that display their work, and, above all, buy their work. Social media solidarity with women artists doesn’t pay those artists’ bills. Go through the online exhibition, see what you like, and choose someone to buy from. You might have to scrimp and save, depending on the artist and the size of the work. If Mormons won’t become patrons of Mormon art, who will?
Here’s a list of purchase award winners from the current International Art Competition, with asterisks next to the female artists. (Of the eighteen women who won awards, only one–Rose Datoc Dall–was on Dave’s list above. The world of Mormon art is much wider than most Mormons know.)
*Paige Crosland Anderson
*Rose Datoc Dall
Hi Fai Wong
Richard Lasisi Olagunju
Adam Lee Sherwood
*Susana Isabel Silva
*Sarah Ann Winegar
*Julie Yuen Yim
And the merit award winners, also with asterisks for the women:
*Alisha Marie Anderson
*Susan McBride Gilgen and Cheryl Ann Styler
*Anne Mecham Gregerson
*Courtney Vander Veur Matz
David Erick Merrell
Personally, I don’t care how many of each gender, race, or age group write, compose, paint, or otherwise produce works of art that testify of Christ. I’m certain that Christ isn’t up there with a tally sheet marking how well represented everyone is in getting recognized for producing art about Him. I think we know Him better than that. I hope we know Him better than that.
Imagine putting together a manual and picking pictures for it and your first concern is the gender of the artists
Imagine putting together a manual and picking pictures for it, and one of your important concerns, among the usual criteria, is the gender of the artist, so that you can make progress towards correcting sexism that harms some of those who use the manual.
To “MDearest, everybody’s favorite volunteer” — Your voice seemed to be the calmest in the discussion, which made it easier to hear. Thank you. Calmness is often better than bluntness.
You’ve got to love that most of the opposition to this post/idea is coming from men. I’m baffled at how many men in the church don’t even acknowledge a problem, much less want to make strides to fix it. (Thank you, David, for not being one of them and for writing this well thought out article).
BTF I think you’re mistaking my niceness for calmness. I don’t feel at all calm when I experience sexism, or see others harmed by it. I love it when others bluntly call it out, because nicely discussing it will never change it. Often bluntness is the better way, and being nice is a flaw.
At any rate, that’s not the point of this discussion. The deserving women artists that don’t get work from the church is one of the indicators of institutional sexism in the church, and it’s a problem that many are oblivious to— that’s the issue here. Getting up in someone’s business because they’re too blunt or emotional in giving their POV; that’s tone-policing and it distracts from the more important discussion. If we’re really interested in women’s voices, we should stop doing that to them when they speak up.
I am not a member of the LDS church, but I paint LDS art. I often feel excluded. Sometimes I think, what if Carl Bloch or Harry Anderson were around today? I wish the church would simply accept art for art’s sake and not focus so much on the signature.
This conversation is a welcome change of pace from weightier matters like faith, hope and charity.
Some few years ago I was invited to subscribe to Intellectual Reserve, Inc and contribute media. Perhaps an unbalance of representation starts with the submissions.
You can review the media library itself at:
I’m not sure it is possible (haven’t checked) for various misrepresentations by artists having various genders, ages, heights, weights, colors, tattoos, national origins, current claims of any of these things that might differ from the assignments made at birth. I had a doubt that these things are important but I sit corrected.
Dsc writes “Far more relevant to the vast majority of church membership is the inclusion of women as subjects of the art.”
I tend to ignore images whose virtue signal is above 60 percent. It isn’t there to tell a story, it is there to signal virtue.
No doubt you’ve seen endless television commercial advertising where the virtue signal is louder than the product itself and it appears to be deliberate; people often do not care WHAT they are buying, provided that the seller is properly Woke.
It doesn’t work on me but hey, I’m the new minority.