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When curators at the LDS Museum of Church History and Art plan an exhibit, they seem to do everything right - no matter how challenging it might be. And a walk through the museum's "Third International Art Competition" is proof positive.

Marge Conder, curator for this exhibit, reports that the call for entries attracted 500 pieces. Less than one-third of them - 150 works by artists from 22 nations and 15 U.S. states - were juried into the show."The LDS Church is in a rare position to sponsor a competition which is truly worldwide in scope," Conder said. "Few other organizations have in place resources to both inform and facilitate participation in an international exhibit from a full cross-section of its population."

This year's theme is "Living the Gospel in the World Church," and the exhibit can be enjoyed from a number of perspectives. Some museumgoers might look at it in terms of how each artist has interpreted the theme. Others might search for the award-winning works that dot the walls and pedestals.

Personally, I was intrigued by the variety of mediums used, many of which have been seldom - and in some cases, never - in art exhibitions in Salt Lake City. Here are a few of them:

- "The Family - a Central Unit in the Church." Lawrence Enigiator of Benin City, Nigeria, spent nine months carving four figures from Okheun wood, the most valued hardwood in the old African Kingdom of Benin.

- "For This Shall Suffice for Thy Daily Walk, Even Unto the End of Thy Life" - a quilt that, from a distance, looks like a painting. It was designed, pieced and quilted by Charlotte Warr Andersen of Kearns, Utah.

- "Act Well Thy Part" - a colorful leaded-glass window by Tom Holdman of Orem, Utah.

- "Emblems of the Covenant" - a sculpture of a loaf of bread, a pitcher of water and cups, all carved in alder wood by John A. Taye of Boise, Idaho.

- "Turning the Heart of a Child to Her Ancestors" - a soft-fabric sculpture by Margery Sorenson Cannon of Salt Lake City.

- Two of the most unusual mediums can be seen in "Home Gardening" by Midori Takeuchi of Matsuyama-shi, Japan, and "Eternal Salvation" by Blanca E. Pavon de Valdez of Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico. Takeuchi's took ratan wicker and wove it to create 3-D figures working in a garden. Valdez placed pieces of colored broom straw side-by-side for a picture of the Salt Lake Lake Temple.

No matter what approach you might take in seeing this exhibition, you'll undoubtedly agree that LDS artists have done a superb job in reflecting gospel values.

The exhibit continues through September 5 at the Museum of Church History and Art, 45 N. West Temple, 240-2299. Hours hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends and holidays. Admission is free.

- A markedly different exhibit is less than a block away from the museum in the Main Gallery of the Salt Lake Art Center. There, you'll find an ambitious, provocative installation by Susan Cheal.

The artist titles it "Pages from a Quiet Book: A Societal Labyrinth." She chose to include "quiet book" in the title because "it's a controlled method of exploration . . . not unlike a labyrinth."

At the start of this labryinth, you stand in front of a colorful sign titled "Dinosaur State Park and Wilderness Preserve." Some of the scenes show contented American Indians posing in native costumes; tranquil, unpolluted mountain lakes; and hunters showing off their kill in the wildlfe preserve.

After studying the sign, you are prepared for a leisurely walk through a romantic, idealistic world. All you have to do is follow the yellow line - much like the yellow-brick road in the land of Oz. But proceed with caution; beware of dinosaurs, minotaurs and the most dangerous of all - man.

However, as you walk along the path and open the first door, be prepared to find yourselves in eerie room with pup tents set up in a circle. These tents are filled with toe shoes, empty wine bottles, softballs, crutches, scriptures, scales and bricks. Around the perimeter of the cirle are rocks, each with a letter on it. They spell "PLEASE PERFORM."

As you continues through this labyrinth, you become increasingly aware of the juxtaposition of the positive and negative, idealism and realism, calm and agitation. What is Cheal saying? In her own words, "Lust, deception, subterfuge, shame and betrayal are pitted against the spirit of genuine competition, trust and romantic love."

She says she does this to convey the complex and universal interplay of human relationships. "In my work, I am interested in the dichotomy between the mask that a culture presents and its darker, more savage, wilderness within."

David Pursley, curator of the SLAC, says that Cheal's work here is a successful installation because "rooms are so full of `information' that those passing through are sensorially overwhelmed and even dismayed at the visual cacaphony."

While making your way through Cheal's maze (the float room, the communication room, the boxing room, the playground room, the horn room, and others), you'll experience emotions ranging from peaceful to disquieting.

The experience gives you an opportunity to interpret the installation in your own way. But if you end your journey with more questions than answers, pick up a free brochure and read succinct explanations by both the artist and Pursley.

The installation will continue to fill the Main Gallery through July 1. Hours at the SLAC (20 S. West Temple, 328-4201) are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.

- First impressions are often incorrect. Such is the case with the 21st Annual National Quilt Show at the Springville Museum of Art.

In previous years, the exhibit has been displayed in three large galleries. This year, they hang in only two. Is it because quilters are losing interest in this annual show?

Last year, 43 quilts were juried in. This year, there were more - 49. However, curator Sharon Gray indicated that no invitational quilts are being displayed this year.

"People are commenting that the quality and creativity in this show are better than in other years," she said.

Viewers are invited to look at these quilts from a distance as well as up close. The overall designs are better enjoyed from afar, whereas the quilting and other intricate techniques emerge when studied up close.

Each year, the competition becomes keener. Seven women won awards. They are:

Masters award - to Eleanor Tracy for a superb landscape; large quilt category - Neola Gleed; traditional - Sylvia Taylor; nontraditional - Jinny Lee Snow; small - Joyce Stewart; and director's award - Cody Mazuran. Awards of merit went to Dianne Sparks, Janene Loftus, Eleanor Tracy and Esther K. Rex.

When visiting the exhibit, ask for the show's curator. If she's available, Gray will be happy to show you around and offer insights into many of the quilts on display. The exhibit continues through July 23 at SMofA, 126 E. 400 South, Springville, 489-2727. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, and 2-5 p.m. on Sunday.