Wednesday, February 24, 2021

SYMBOLIC MINIMALISM vs New restrictions for depicting Deity in LDS artwork

I started writing a blogpost a few weeks ago about minimalism in artwork where the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.  The reason for wanting to write about this subject was that I had come across a couple of minimalistic art renditions of the First Vision that I thought were really cool. 

The image on the left uses just geometric shapes and the one on the right only uses black and white cutouts. Both are very symbolic and conveys a lot of meaning with very little detail. 

I never finished writing about it and kept the post in my every increasing drafts that I don't publish. However, a few days ago I heard that that there is a new internal direction from LDS church leaders about portraying Deity for the Church curriculum and media.  The new policy directs that artwork depicting God and Jesus Christ will need to fit within more narrow guidelines. All of the artwork depicting deity will need to have facial features. Artistic stylization like cubism will not be permitted as well. In addition, all visual interpretations of God will need undergo the approval process in Correlation.

Below are some examples of artwork currently being sold at Deseret Book that will no longer be used in Church media and materials because they do not following the new edicts from above. Apparently all artwork depicting the The Father and the Son will need to clearly show two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and two ears.  Like other recent changes including no longer using the Angel Moroni on top of newer temples, we will no longer see symbolic artwork of Christ appear in church produced media and publications like a few of these paintings below currently being sold at Deseret Book.


Throughout history works of art have been altered, silenced and even erased due to unacceptable content by those in power and authority whether the motivations for censorship were religious, social or political. Despite these new restrictions in how we should depict God, I hope that artists will continue to use their God given talent and creativity to push boundaries of rigid guidelines through their imagery and content. Art is uniquely positioned to move people—inspiring us, inciting new questions and provoking curiosity.  Depicting Deity in a symbolic way allows the viewer connect with God in a unique way. Personally I have found beauty in some of the simplest and minimalistic forms depicting God and Christ. 

That being said, I wonder how long the revelation to brand His Church by depicting Christ as a Greek-like graven statue in marble will last.


Vaughn Hughes said...

I once saw the following comment from someone who claims to have been in our Lord's presence:

I’ve been surprised at appearances.  I’ve avoided making any effort to provide a description of the Lord’s appearance.  In the early church there are passing references to the Lord’s “round face” from which I can affirm they saw Him.  Most of the LDS artwork depicting “Jesus” are pretty good likenesses of Lucifer.  I think there is wisdom in not making an image of the Lord because most of the images are quite misleading.

I have pondered this statement many times and wondered at the wisdom of using detailed, realistic depictions of the faces of the Father and the Son. I'm generally persuaded that we are probably much better off with some of the less detailed representations, like you have included here. We no longer keep art with detailed facial representations of our Lord hanging on the walls in our home.

OpenMind said...

Great thoughts Vaughn...Ah the lds first vision pictures. Apparently they haven’t gotten that far into genesis/Abraham regarding the image of God. They apparently think that “image” is male and male from the images I’ve seen. I’ll take Joseph’s, Nephi’s, and all the other prophets testimonies over all those artists renditions...apparently they didn’t nail the likeness of who they thought they were nailing.

But I agree we are better off with less detailed representations...that whole idolatry thing....