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For the Larsens, art is creating by organizing

I’ve always liked Joseph Smith’s notion that “creating” and “organizing” amount to the same thing, which he spoke about in the King Follett Sermon during a conference held on April 7, 1844.

You take bit and pieces of what exists and organize them into something unique. That’s creating. Everything is a collage — from a new hymnbook to a brave, new world.

Artist Robert Rauschenberg called such creations “assemblages.”

And for the next several months, assemblages by two prominent Mormon artists — painter Jacqui Larsen and her husband, Lance — will grace several walls of the Springville Museum of Art.

It all makes for a sweet centerpiece to Springville’s Art City Days this week.

Last week, I stopped by for the open house. I stayed twice as long as I had planned.

Lance Larsen is an English professor at Brigham Young University and the current Poet Laureate of Utah.

Jacqui Larsen was given the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for her art and has been the recipient of many grants and prizes.

And as my card-playing cousin would say, they're a pair to draw to.

Recently, the two of them joined hands to scour the landscape within a three-mile radius of their Springville home. And from their wanderings, they have hunted, gathered and — quite literally — pieced together an exhibit that shows the charm of rural life as well as the many forces at work to change it.

Along with their mix of words and pigment, we get snippets of sheet music, old photos and even a tiny screen door. We are shown the outlines of dogs, rabbits, boats, pots, pans and homes.

A blue horse blurs by.

Green street signs, pinwheels and a red bicycle ignite before our eyes.

And when Lance’s hand-lettered poetry gets laid in, the creations (pardon me, the “assemblages”) tumble and whirl like clothes in a dryer.

“One day the sky will offer you its rungs to climb,” writes Lance. And “to my secret name only rain can pronounce” and “tilted fields and a buck’s candelabra of bone.”

I looked and studied, absorbed and reflected. And before long, I realized what seemed chaotic was meticulously organized.

There was method to the messiness, a careful pattern to all the hodgepodge.

Nothing was left to chance. What at first blush appeared to be sloppy paint drippings were carefully poured there.

What seemed haphazard had actually been carried off with total control and precision.

And I realized I was looking at life in the world as a believer would conceive it. Everything may appear jumbled, but with patience and study we can sense a pattern behind it.

Everything, in the end, has been organized.

Our lives, like a Larsen collage, aren’t a sum of accidents.

What happens has been orchestrated.

There’s a scheme.

It's not happenstance. It's all handiwork.

Lance and Jacqui Larsen are two of the best our culture has to offer.

I urge you to check out their show.

You’ll feel stimulated by the free-flowing words and pictures. And you’ll feel impressed by the knowing hands that organized them.