LDS Art Competition a Way to Share Testimony

Contributed By Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events

  • 2011-09-09

Meet J. Kirk Richards, an artist and past winner of the Church’s International Art Competition, which will be held again this year.

Article Highlights

  • Ninth International Art Competition
  • Entries accepted from Church members around the world until October 7, 2011
  • Exhibit opens on March 16, 2012

“Each painting is kind of like a prayer, trying to approach the divine in some way. Hopefully those who see the art will have a similar experience.” —J. Kirk Richards, artist

The time to enter the Ninth International Art Competition of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will draw to a close on October 7, 2011.

The competition, which is open to Church members 18 years of age or older around the world, is held every three years and is overseen by the Church History Museum. This year’s theme is “Make Known His Wonderful Works.”

“It really is a celebration of the worldwide Church,” said Rita Wright, curator of art and artifacts for the Church History Museum. “Artists around the world bring their beliefs and their cultural sensibilities, and they interpret them according to gospel principles.”

Figurative artist J. Kirk Richards, of Provo, Utah, USA, who has entered the past three competitions and won awards in each, plans to enter again this year.

“There are not a lot of venues dedicated to religious artists,” he said. “It is so great to see what people are doing all over the world and see artwork depicting gospel scenes from Africa, Europe, and South America. It’s a blessing that the Church sees fit to make this an important tradition.”

Brother Richards also said the competition is an opportunity for those viewing the art to have an experience of their own.

“In creating art, we are trying to capture the divine,” he said. “Each painting is kind of like a prayer, trying to approach the divine in some way. Hopefully those who see the art will have a similar experience.”

In the past, entries have included paintings, sculptures, drawings, pastels, textiles, pottery, ceramics, jewelry, woodcarvings, photography, metalwork, and original prints.

Figurative sculptor Jacob Dobson from Indiana, USA, has entered in the past, winning a merit award in 2008 for two of the panels from his 13-panel doorway that expresses a testimony of the Articles of Faith. He plans to enter this year’s competition as well.

“The art in these competitions are testimonies in visual ways,” he said. “What we want to do is share them with the world, and this exhibit helps.”

This year, Brother Dobson plans to enter a bronze sculpture that represents a Native American woman taking her child to Christ to be healed. A copy of the statue is now on display at the Indiana State Museum, where Dobson hopes the LDS subject matter will prompt people to think about the Lord’s hand in the Americas anciently and during the Restoration.

“What I do is so time-consuming that I feel I need to express what is most important,” he said. “I don’t have time or energy to express what is not paramount.”

Many artists submit work each competition, but there are dozens of new participants each competition as well.

“We’re never sure of who’s going to submit,” said Karen Westenskow, administrative assistant to the museum director.

Artist Rose Datoc Dall, a contemporary human figural and painter, first entered the competition in 2002. During the Eighth International Art Competition, she received a purchase award for her painting, Flight, showing Joseph and Mary taking baby Jesus to Egypt.

“This is the place for artists who want to create gospel art to do it,” Sister Dall said. “I would invite all artists to have the experience of learning to rely less on your own arm of flesh, and to really rely on the Savior for guidance and direction.”

In each competition the artwork is judged on how well it expresses the theme; the excellence of aesthetic and technical accomplishment; and its creativity, originality, and quality.

“This event has really created an opportunity for me to delve into the gospel in … a focused way,” Sister Dall said. “It’s a bigger experience than you; it’s about how you use your gifts in the way Heavenly Father wants you to use them.”

In the months following the deadline a multimember jury will judge all entries. The first round of judging will be based on digital images of the artwork submitted with the entry form. First-round winners will be notified and instructed to send the original artwork to the Church History Museum for the second round of judging. Winning second-round entries will be shown in the exhibit.

Up to 20 artists will receive Merit Awards of $500 for their pieces. The museum will also grant a number of Purchase Awards to acquire art for its collection. Three Visitors’ Choice Awards of $500 each will be given shortly before the exhibition closes.

The exhibit will officially open on the evening of March 16, 2012, and will continue through October 14, 2012. Works of art from the exhibit will be available for viewing on the Church History Museum website beginning on March 17, 2012.