As we imagine many of you have, we’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus these last few weeks. From the nativity we set up in our living room to the movies we’re watching to the hymns we’re singing in Church, this is a time that in so many beautiful ways, makes Him more prominent in our lives and minds.
And one question naturally comes up from there: when we imagine Jesus, what do we see? For many of us, it’s probably heavily influenced by the art we grew up with. If you’re like us, you might even be imagining the famous Del Parson painting, featuring the red-robed Jesus with piercing blue eyes.
But as today’s guest, Esther Candari, points out, some of this imagery strays quite far from what Jesus, a middle-eastern man born 2000 years ago, probably looked like. But she’s also quick to point out that historical accuracy may not be the point either — none of us do know what Jesus looked like. And if Jesus is the Savior of the World, then couldn’t there be room for diverse images Jesus in religious art that allows members of a similarly diverse, worldwide Church to resonate deeply and personally with it?
Esther Hi’ilani Candari is an Asian-American artist and educator from Hawai’i. She has an BFA from BYU-H, an MFA from Liberty University, studied at the New York Academy of Art, and interned with Joseph Brickey. One of her favorite projects so far was working on the Rome Temple Visitors Center mural with Joseph. Her work can be found in galleries and bookstores across Utah including Deseret Book. In addition to her studio work, she teaches art courses for Southern Virginia University, manages programming for Writ & Vision Gallery, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Dialogue Foundation. In her ward she serves as the first counselor in the Relief Society Presidency.
Lee Correia is the artist we mentioned, and here is the print Aubrey referenced: https://ascartistry.myshopify.com/products/heavenly-mother-print
Tips from Esther:
- You choose what is displayed in your lessons and homes. We are a home centered church. Teaching the Savior’s Way, the current official teacher’s manual for church curriculum, urges instructors to, “Consider how using music, stories, pictures, and other forms of art can invite the Spirit, clarify gospel principles in memorable ways, and help learners relate the gospel to their everyday lives.”
- Buy from artists directly.
- Always credit art when you repost it and if you are using it for any materials/products, even if it is just for church. Check with the artist first.
- Find ways to support artists of color! It doesn’t just have to be cash. Personal example, giving educational information and experiences freely. If you know them personally, offer to watch their kids if they are a mom artist. Donate supplies. Volunteer what skills/resources you have to help them promote their work.
- Volunteering to support group activities like I AM.
- If you are an artist, create art that is genuine to your personal experience.
- Deseret Books functions as a business, vote with your dollars.
- Write letters to decision making entities, such as the president of Deseret Book, or members of the temple art committee. Include notes on what was done well as well as what needs to improve. Remember that a little bit of strategy can go a long way and sometimes people who haven’t done the work that you have to see biases in art need to be shown where they got it right as well as where they got it wrong so they know what to aim for more frequently.
- Have open conversations with your ward/stake leaders about what art is selected for church buildings.
Meetinghouse Mosaic: https://meetinghousemosaic.com/