“An Artist’s Lifework Captured in Exhibit,” Ensign, Jan. 2004, 77–78
When President Boyd K. Packer was in high school, he wanted to be an artist. He went on to become an educator, and while art did not become his profession, it has continued to be a treasured pastime. For the first time, a collection of his life’s artwork is gathered for display at the Church’s Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City and on the museum’s Web site.
The exhibit, Boyd K. Packer: The Lifework of an Amateur Artist, chronicles his art created over a lifetime—from some of his earliest sketches done at age nine to masterful carvings created in recent years. The exhibit also offers patrons a glimpse into the personal life of a respected Apostle and Church leader.
President Packer’s penchant for art began very early and was nurtured by his parents. “When I was a little boy and exhibited some creative talent, it was always encouraged and fostered by my parents,” said President Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He used whatever media was available to him to express his talent. His father would bring home scrap paper from work or give him and his siblings leftover wood. President Packer even sketched on the backs of the envelopes in which he mailed letters to his family during World War II.
Almost without exception his subjects include nature. With a keen sense of observation, President Packer has made the study of birds and other elements of nature a lifelong pursuit, and his attention to detail is evident in his work. “He is the master of [portraying] the natural attitudes of birds and animals,” artist Lance Turner noted.
Art was President Packer’s focus early on, but as he grew older, his priorities changed. He decided to channel his talent to support his family and other aspects of his life.
“When our children came, I knew that the time I spent improving my own abilities would be taken away, in a sense, from our children,” President Packer said. “So during the growing-up years of our family, perhaps 20 years, most of the things that I did in a creative way were done with the children in trying to teach them.”
Among the many projects completed as a family is a 14-foot-wide mural created for the family’s living room. It is a painting of a tree with 50 varieties of birds in the branches, most of which were seen in the trees around the Packers’ home. The children helped draw the birds, and President Packer taught the children each bird’s name and habits.
Like this mural, much of his art is created for personal purposes. A family favorite is a wooden Noah’s ark that President Packer carved for his grandchildren.
“Noah’s Ark is a favorite thing with our grandchildren,” said Sister Donna Smith Packer, President Packer’s wife. “They can look at it, then they can enjoy it, but they can also handle it, and get their little chairs and kneel up and play with these animals.”
President Packer’s art has not only helped him teach his children and grandchildren but has also helped him in his service as a leader of the Church. Those who have heard him speak have likely heard wisdom and insight he gained while creating a work of art. “During those hours working with my hands, I pondered on the marvels of creation, and inspiration would flow. As I carved wood, I carved out talks,” he said.
Pieces from this exhibit can be viewed online at www.lds.org/museum. Click on “Exhibits and Galleries,” then “Current Exhibits,” then “Boyd K. Packer: The Lifework of an Amateur Artist.” The exhibit runs through 6 September 2004.