Elder M. Russell Ballard, Elder Neil L. Andersen, Greg Olsen, and BYU President Kevin J Worthen gathered at the Hinckley Center to unveil a new painting by Olsen on Wednesday, Aug. 19.
The new painting is a 52”x 84” oil on canvas that will hang permanently in the Hinckley Center on the first floor starting today.
The piece was commissioned by Leo and Annette Beus and is titled, “Treasures of Knowledge.”
McKay Christensen, managing director for BYU Alumni and External Relations, said that the piece helps capture the spirit of BYU’s dedication to learning both by study and by faith.
“It’s a good representation of what happens here at BYU,” Christensen said. “It depicts our mission in a very unique and powerful way.”
The piece features two young adults who are, in fact, BYU students, reading in a room surrounded by various items.
Olsen called it the one of the biggest endeavors of his life. This was his first commissioned painting for BYU.
He said he wants people to see the painting as a metaphor for life.
“I hope it’s a reminder that the world is a workshop of alchemy where we can take ordinary things and turn them into pearls of great price,” Olsen said.
Elder Andersen expanded on that theme.
“A piece like this helps us understand that everything does testify of the Savior. Everything shows the magnificence of the gifts we’ve received,” Elder Andersen said. “That’s the story of BYU.”
Elder Ballard made similar remarks and expressed his gratitude for the artistic gift that the Lord gave Olsen. He lauded the contribution the Beus’ made in commissioning the painting for donation to BYU.
The breadth of the items in the painting is expansive and includes representations of science, math, arts, literature, carpentry, geology, history and architecture, all designed to demonstrate the wide range of learning that people can engage in.
The painting has so many facets that Olsen said it took him six months to find all the items depicted in the piece.
He rummaged through antique shops and online for months in order to set up the scene depicted in the painting in his studio.
But the entire process took much longer.
“The process started about six years ago as we tried to come up with a theme. We spent about five years trying to agree on a theme,” Olsen said, adding that his favorite thing about the finished work is thinking about how viewers can interact with the piece.
“People can create their own stories behind it. It’s open for a lot of viewer interpretation,” Olsen said.