BYU Maxwell Institute commissions art for new location

A sign stands outside the BYU Maxwell Institute. (Whitney Bigelow)

The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship is settling into its new location in the newly constructed West View Building with several new pieces of religious art.

In 2018, the Maxwell Institute was removed from its previous building and temporarily placed in the Clyde Engineering Building. Once the Maxwell Institute moved into the West View Building, new art was needed to fill the space.

The idea to bring in new art to aid with the goals of the Institute wasn’t a quick decision. “We didn’t want art to simply be a decoration. We wanted the art to participate in the life of the institute,” said J. Spencer Fluhman, director of the Maxwell Institute.

The art was selected carefully by a committee from many pieces considered. Selections were added from artists such as J. Kirk Richards, Rose Datoc Dall, Caitlin Connolly and Matthew Grant. Two of the art pieces featured were “First Vision” by Richards and “Behold the Handmaid” by Dall.

Richards was still early in the process of painting “First Vision” when a member from the Maxwell Institute approached him about completing it for the new location. He agreed to finish the piece commissioned and was allowed the freedom to continue painting as he had imagined.

“Mary and Elisabeth” painted by Dall hangs in the Maxwell Institute. (Rose Datoc Dall)

“It will surprise some viewers to see that Joseph is actually facing away from the vision,” Richards said. He referenced Joseph Smith’s account of the vision in which Joseph is praying to God when his “mind was taken away from the objects.” Richards understood this to represent Joseph facing away from the vision. Most other representations of the vision show Joseph facing towards God and Jesus Christ.

“Behold the Handmaid” painted by Dall was not her only piece selected for the Maxwell Institute. Her painting “Mary and Elisabeth” was also commissioned to reside in the Maxwell Institute.

Dall noted that she painted her pieces with the question of what it would have been like to be the mother of Jesus Christ. She was excited to have the opportunity to have her pieces hang on campus.

“I am so pleased that ‘Behold the Handmaid’ and ‘Mary and Elisabeth’ are hanging together at the Maxwell Institute, as they are part of the same story. As a woman artist, I am especially grateful that two portraits of heroic women of the Bible are included in the art collection at the Maxwell Institute,” Dall said.

The newly constructed West View Building houses the BYU Maxwell Institute. (Whitney Bigelow)
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