In her memoirs in the late 1940s, Utah painter Minerva Teichert wrote about the moment when she felt a "calling" to be a Western artist who drew her subject matter from her religious faith.
Renowned painter Robert Henri, her mentor at the Art Students League in New York in 1915 and 1916, asked her, "Has anyone ever told your great Mormon story?"Her answer, "Not to suit me," prompted him to say, "Good heavens, girl, what a chance. You do it. You're the one."
Not long after, she left New York for the Idaho border near Utah to marry her "cowboy sweetheart" and later raise five children in the tiny community of Cokeville, Wyo. There she worked the fields, nurtured her family and painted nearly every day of her life until her death in 1976.
"I must paint," she wrote. "It's a disease."
Her focus on Book of Mormon history can be seen at Brigham Young University's Museum of Art Thursday, Dec. 4 through May 16, in a free show called "That He Who Runs, May Read: Minerva Teichert's Book of Mormon Paintings."
The title of the exhibit is taken from a popular phrase among muralists of the early 1900s. While studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, Teichert heard Edwin Blashfield lecture several times. A leader in the American mural movement, Blashfield so impressed Teichert that she attended every lecture, according to Dawn Pheysey, the curator of the BYU exhibit.
Blashfield believed that mural art should convey a message to the people. "He said it must embody thought and significance and do it so plainly that he who runs may read it," Pheysey said.
The show contains more than 40 of Teichert's murals and preliminary oil sketches. Much of the art comes from the museum's substantial collection her art.
One painting in the exhibit especially reflects Teichert's "I must paint" philosphy. In the 1960s, the artist broke her right arm between the shoulder and elbow. Although she was right-handed, she continued to paint, and a large mural, "Lehi in the Desert," is work she did with her left hand.
The exhibit may be seen Monday through Fridays from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. with extended hours Mondays and Thursdays to 9 p.m. The museum is also open Saturdays from noon-5 p.m.
Also planned is a Minerva Teichert lecture series Feb. 5 and 12, March 12 and May 14 from 7-8:30 p.m. While admission is free, tickets are required and are available at the museum.