Art can assit in exploring the promptings of the Spirit

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    By Ita K Muavesi

    The focus of Tuesday”s, May 28, Forum was whether the process of viewing and making interpretations of art can assist us in exploring the quiet promptings of the Spirit.

    Campbell Gray, Director of the BYU Museum of Art, began his presentation by exploring the process that we need to go through in order to receive answers to the spirit.

    Possessing an inquisitive mind and heart puts us in a mild state of humility that naturally allows us to be open to new knowledge and experience, Gray said.

    “The basis of learning is the process that is first manifest by a question,” he said.

    The pursuit of meaning or knowledge in this life has the same general characteristics of seeking answers from the Spirit, he said.

    Gray said that interpreting impressions from the Spirit, after having pondered and waited for an answer, is the area where the greatest risk occurs.

    “It involves humility, a truly open mind and careful consideration of all the factors and contexts,” he said.

    Gray said similar principles apply to the interpretation of art.

    Although viewers of art are free to interpret according to their will, he said the artist”s intended meanings cannot be ignored.

    “Art does not simply document or comment on change, it provides a critique that foregrounds the character of and motivation for the change,” he said.

    Gray showed three works of art to illustrate how interpreting art helps us to consider the intended meanings of each artist.

    He mentioned that there are three principles to consider while interpreting art:

    First, we should apply the process of viewing art by asking the simple question: “What does it mean?” and rigorously exploring our responses.

    Second, because art incorporates broad possibilities to explore important issues and truths, we must be careful and highly sensitive to these assaults upon our minds and hearts.

    Third, the procedure that enables us to search for meaning is similar to the procedures that enable us to interpret the impressions that we receive from the spirit.

    Gray said the BYU Museum of Art, which is not funded from University budget allocations, is one of the ten largest University Art museums in the United States.

    At any one time, the Museum presents five or six exhibitions concurrently. Almost all of the exhibitions, conferences, symposiums, performances, and activities are free to the BYU community, he said.

    The Museum just closed an exhibition that came from the Smithsonian American Art Museum called “Lure of the West.” In August it will open a spectacular exhibition of Ottoman art called, “Empire of the Sultans.”

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