Library exhibit uses road signs to symbolize direction from God

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Artist Todd Stilson sits in front of his piece “Brazen Serpentine,” representing the Bible story of Moses raising up a healing serpent in the wilderness. This piece is the focal point of Stilson’s exhibit “Signs and Wonder” located on the first floor of the Harold B. Lee Library. (Addie Blacker)

The art exhibit “Signs and Wonder” on the first floor of the Harold B. Lee Library uses street signs to symbolize divine plans for life and protection from God.

“Signs on the roadway are similar to the commandments in that they are generally accepted and they keep us safe,” exhibit curator Melanie Allred said.

“Signs and Wonder” artist Todd Stilson said he used the traffic system to represent God’s direction and plan for all people. He emphasized that both traffic signs and signs from God are given for protection and safety.

“Street signs are a benevolent thing created for us,” Stilson said. “People don’t paint road signs to have you drive into a wall. They don’t have an ulterior motive other than to keep you safe.”

The library featured Stilson’s work before and was excited to show more of his art with this exhibit, visual arts librarian Christiane Ramsey said. She sees the pavement on the canvas as a symbol of the paths of life. “I see our past and our future, the paths we have or have not taken, and the signs we have or have not followed.”

“Brazen Serpentine” is a painting of a curving arrow that marks the focal point of the exhibit. According to Stilson, the piece points back to the brazen serpent Moses held up in the wilderness. He said the painting shows that mortality will cause harm, and God will give healing.

For Allred, “Brazen Serpentine” shows that progression still occurs even when it does not happen linearly. She said it shows that God’s plan is for all people to progress even when they feel they are deviating from the path. “There’s a lot of diversity in how that plan unfolds for each individual,” she said.

Stilson used several mediums in his art, including tar-based paint, soil and calcium. He said the soil was used in one painting to represent Adam being born of the dust of the Earth and the calcium to represent Eve being made from Adam’s rib.

Many pieces feature Adam and Eve, Stilson said, showing that the system on this planet is controlled by real beings. Allred said the exhibit as a whole represents the plan of salvation centered around Christ.

The exhibit “Signs and Wonder” uses road markings to represent God’s direction and commandments that allow for safety and protection. (Addie Blacker)

Stilson said he wants people to leave the exhibit recognizing that commandments from God provide protection and not restriction. “I hope that what people get is the idea that the commandments are good things,” he said. “We shouldn’t be afraid of them or fight against them.”

Allred also said she hopes anyone who feels restricted by God’s commandments can see the freedom that exists within them through the symbols in the artwork.

More information about “Signs and Wonder” is available on the BYU Art in the Library website. The exhibit will be on display until April 27.

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