Above: Founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Robert Henri, oil on canvas, 1916. Minerva Teichert was a student of Henri and it was he that encouraged her to “paint her people.”
Above: Rachel Farmer, Ancestors Under Wyoming Skies, 2014.
This morning, I woke up to a post by Wonderland magazine which, in connection with Tiffany & Co., published five short videos about the upcoming Whitney Biennial, an exhibition that has existed since 1932. The Biennial was according, to artist Miranda July “just American art and just about right now, a snap shot of this moment and time.” Founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, at the time of its opening, the Whitney Museum of American Art was radical in its direction. Most museums of the time still looked to European cultural productions and largely dismissed their own culture. But Whitney support was revolutionary—it helped cultivated artists and elevated American culture.
And while watching, I couldn’t help but think of our little festival in comparison and the large similarities to upcoming exhibition Immediate Present—to display just Mormon art, created in the here and now, as a snap shot.
And let’s stop and define that (perhaps loaded) term.
In 1969, a year after President Kimball’s influential Gospel Vision of the Arts, M. Ephraim Hatch wrote, “Mormon art may be described as art which is created by Mormons, art which is created for Mormons, or art which is created about Mormons.” I agree. Art educator Herman Du Toit wrote in the opening catalog for the symposium Art, Belief, and Meaning, “the disparate array of interests, concerns, and points of view expressed by Latter-day Saint writers… clearly indicate there is no uniquely Mormon art on the horizon nor in the foreseeable future.” American art is similar—there is certainly no uniform truly “American” style nor, certainly, is there a Mormon one.
Like the Biennale, I see Immediate Present as a cultural slice. The exhibition is limited to 24 artists and as such, I’m certainly leaving others out, even important influencers that would be on other curators’ lists. I don’t intend this exhibition to be THE definitive canon. But, I certainly hope to influence definitions, cultivate greater artistic productions, and expand the notion of Mormon art, out of its perceived colloquial status, much like what Gertrude Whitney did for American art.
Laura Allred Hurtado