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Meet the artists in the first Mormon Arts Center Festival in New York City

Editor's note: The first "Mormon Arts Center Festival" will take place this year from June 29 to July 1 in New York City, New York. The following highlights some of the art and artists that will be featured this year. The art, biographical information of the artists and their quotations below are from the "Mormon Arts Center Festival" and are republished here with their permission:

Stephanie Kelly Clark, a 32-year-old artist from Salt Lake City, Utah, finds inspiration from 17th-century Dutch genre painter, Johannes Vermeer. For Clark, Vermeer depicts "subtly quaint" stories of the domestic imaginary. But Clark's work also considers the domestic domain, weaving homespun traditions with textures of postmodern life.

Initially trained in oils, Clark now uses embroidery floss as her palette; the needle as her paintbrush; and thread as her paint. Trading oils for threads, Clark brings "new purpose" to her work, which she calls "an ode … influenced by the worlds of tapestry and (her) love for craft."

Jorge Cocco is the purveyor of a new artistic style he calls “Sacrocubism.” This genre portrays sacred events with several features of the Post-Cubist movement. Cocco said, “I think it is a perfect way to present art since the miracles, life and plan of God at times are hard to fully comprehend, and in some ways seem surreal to us since they are somewhat abstract. For this reason, I decided to paint in this style, because those events represent more than what the eye can see at first sight.”

Francisco Estévez — or “Paco” as he is affectionately known — was born in 1945 in Africa and raised in Spain, and later studied at the New Music Institute at Darmstadt, the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf, the Center for Electronic Music at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, and the Conservatorio Superior de Sevilla. Paco also collaborated with the foremost electronic band, Kraftwerk. While much of Estévez’s life as a composer and musician has been unnoticed by the “Mormon corridor" of LDS artists in the west, The Church History Library and BYU Special Collections recently acquired the archive of Estèvez's compelling works.

David Lindsay is an artist based in Lubbock, Texas. He said, “In my work, I try to illustrate the complex relationship between individual will and human constraint. I hope the relationship comes through in the … painted imagery and the structure the canvas creates. … As Mormons, we are already part of the culture that surrounds us — I think we could do a better job at making stronger statements about that culture.”

Ron Richmond, an artist from Mt. Pleasant, UT, describes his process for oil painting: "(It) usually begins as I'm reading, pondering or just daydreaming (when) an idea pops into my mind. I start … what I call 'visual brainstorming.' I evaluate, sketch, (and) re-evaluate until I have a visual equivalent to my original thought. The first sketches are very rough … and my question to myself is, 'Does it say what I am thinking without much of a hint of subject matter?'"

NYC-based artist Annie Poon creates stop-motion animations using cut paper, generally in just shades of black and white.

Poon begins each of her sketches with a ‘key image’ in mind — a representation or distillation of the overall feeling for the work. Sometimes she even composes music before making the animation. After broadly designing characters and establishing general ideas, she sets her camera over her sketchbook and sits with blank paper, scissors and pen to meditate, allowing the scene to intuitively build within the pages of her sketchbook.

Walter Rane is a 67-year-old artist from Harlem, New York who explores the intersection between the spiritual and physical. He recalls, “Growing up I admired the old masters like Rembrandt and Caravaggio who painted spiritual subjects and I wanted to paint like them.”

“My purpose for painting is to do something the view will find engaging, something that will open a door in their mind … an exchange, a connection that cannot be verbalized or had in any other way.”

Casey Jex Smith lives in Provo, Utah with his family. He uses the structures of role-play-gaming and religious ritual to create allegorical drawings. Leveling up, isometric perspective, character creation, quest items, mythical beasts, and battles are used to mirror real-life scenarios where the individual butts up against institutional power structures. Smith contrasts the reward system in gaming — finely tuned to balance work with pleasure — to the reward system of global capitalism, which is at times arbitrary and cruel.

Nathan Thatcher, a 27-year-old composer from Ann Arbor, Michigan, recently traveled to Spain to catalogue, archive and chronicle the prolific work of recently-retired composer and musician, Francisco Estèvez. Thatcher's time with Estèvez is chronicled in "Paco," a tribute and nod to the Spanish composer's nickname. Thatcher said, "The future of Mormon arts is … a broadening of our aesthetic. There needs to be more different art by more different people as the Church continues to represent more different people with more different cultures. It must include bringing good art into frequent use in the spiritual practice of everyday Mormons. In short, the future of Mormon art is more of it and a wider definition of it."

Ethan Wickman is a composer of music for the concert hall and stage. While some designate his work “new” music or “art” music, he prefers to think of simply as music. Born in Glendale, CA, he currently lives in San Antonio, TX, where he works as Executive Director of the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University.

Wickman shared his view regarding the future of LDS art: “Many things in our culture point to a broader attitude toward the new and unfamiliar … (some) hunger after something more substantial. I think many in our LDS culture are curious and ready to experience new, original work … where some of that energy has been devoted largely to arrangement and embellishment. That said, I do think arrangements of hymns and other familiar works are an important art form and a culturally significant product from recent decades.”

"The actual layer of paint on canvas or board is the surface, which fact can never be ignored. The … brushstrokes … are also symbols. They may, if only formal in presentation, still symbolize to the eye, mind, or heart meanings only realized by our subconscious yearnings for archetypes. Archetypes begin as personal and reveal themselves to the collective — the individual to the common … A paradox exists in the fact that no matter how exactly an object is represented, it is still an illusionistic symbol of something else."

The Mormon Arts Center Festival will take place this year from June 29 to July 1 in New York City, New York.