Harvest paintings in Sept. Ensign

9.3.08 | | 8 comments

I wasn’t planning on doing another post on Ensign art, but the September issue has another four page spread — this one featuring harvest-themed work. What I find interesting is that the feature, which is titled “A Time of Harvest” doesn’t focus on what one thinks it would (or at least what I thought it would). It’s not about D&C 4:4, not about the harvest as missionary work metaphor, but rather it’s actually about the harvest season — complete with quotes from Presidents Monson, Hinckley and Kimball on the joys of growing your own food.

Most of the works featured (7 paintings, 1 sculpture and 1 quilt) are from the Museum of Church History. Three focus on the fruits of the harvest in the home; the rest on the actual action of harvesting.

There is one painting that grabbed me, in particular, and I wasn’t surprised to find that it was by J. Kirk Richards. I have been a fan of his work ever since reading an LDS Today profile of him back in 2003 (although I think that that’s actually a shortened profile and that there was a fuller, earlier one, featuring more of his work, posted on an earlier incarnation of the LDS Today Web site from maybe 2000 or 2001).

The Richards painting featured in the Ensign article is titled “Laborers in the Vineyard”:

It is the only work that is listed as being from a “private collection.” Like the painting by Greg K. Olsen — “The Harvester” — “Laborers” is clearly less about the message of the article and more about the scriptural meaning. Unlike Olsen’s painting, Richards’ work is not awash in golden light and sheaves of wheat. In fact, it takes place at night, the only light coming from lanterns held by the laborers. The scene is an actual grape harvest. The setting a large terraces vineyard in France or Italy. A woman, her dress dramatically lit by one of the lanterns, a basket of grapes in her arms, faces the viewer. Several men and perhaps a couple more women, their faces obscured, are engaged in work. A manor house, complete with cupola and lit windows, is in the distance. The glow of many lanterns dots the top right part of the painting.

One gets the sense that these people are engaged in a massive, urgent undertaking.

The Web version above looks like it’s been lightened. It’s washed out. The magazine version looks better to me. I would encourage you to seek it out in print form — and look at the works as well.

I like that the Ensign went for the non-heavy message for the concept. I like even more that Richards painting got me thinking about the heavier, missionary-themed, Jacob 5-flavored aspect of the word harvest.

Incidentally, Richards has another work on the theme that’s more overtly symbolic and is simply titled “Harvest.”

8 comments: “Harvest paintings in Sept. Ensign

  1. Th.

    .

    I love JKR’s work — have since it started being given prominent wall space in the BYU Bookstore. His work is like a revelation of what can be. I think the first I ever saw was his Last Supper.

  2. Larry Ogan

    I agree that J. Kirk Richard’s creates some of the most interesting contemporary paintings in the LDS vernacular, I like “Harvest” better than the piece reproduced in the Ensign but that is just my taste. I also love the Mahonri M. Young sculpture. It’s design has a natural classic elegance combined with gentle power. Plus the Greg Olsen painting was a pleasant surprise. Maybe I just like paintings of natural looking pretty girls but I found the piece to be very appealing. But then I do have the guilty pleasure of enjoying 19th century romantic artwork.

  3. Th.

    .

    If I’m not mistaken, that’s an older Olsen painting–back before he went off the deep end. Or maybe just before I knew he’d gone off the deep end.

    So to speak.

  4. William Morris Post author

    I completely agree that the Greg Olsen painting was a pleasant surprise, Larry. But “Laborers in the Vineyard” made a much bigger impression on me.

  5. Wm Morris

    I was just reading that too, actually. It’s worth downloading the PDF version — a lot more images.

  6. Th.

    .

    At the risk of turning this into a panoply of short thcomments, I remembered that Last Supper was actually my second JKR—the first was CHERUBIM AND A FLAMING SWORD, which is wildly striking a so different from Last Supper. I think it was not just the individual excellence of the two paintings, but their gross differences that really drew me to his work.

    I’m big on artists who can do variety, no matter the medium.

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