Make Known His Wonderful Works:
The LDS international art competition and a failure of web-imagination

3.22.12 | | 22 comments

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I could be wrong, but I don’t think there is a big crossover between AMV readership and Thumblr (my Tumblr blog, natch). On Thumblr for the next few days, I’m posting art from the Church’s international art competition; theme this year, “Make Known His Wonderful Works.”

With each piece I post, I’m directing people to the competition’s website where they can view other pieces and vote for their favorite[s]. (I’m unclear on whether you are allowed to vote for multiple pieces.)

Notwithstanding the Church’s clear interest in social-networking Internet efforts (eg, mormon.org), this effort of mine is likely to prove an abysmal waste of time.

Behold:

This is a shot from one of my favorite pieces, a painting of Joseph Smith holding the baby Jesus, by Brian Kershisnik. If you’re having trouble making out the image, it’s because the Church website has broken the painting into several jpgs and by copying the image’s URL, this is all I was able to share. This is, I presume, to prevent people from stealing the images, I suppose?

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Well. I’m not going to let that stop me. Here’s the whole thing:

kershisnik_Joseph-With-The-Infant-Jesus

Yeah, I had to make a screenshot then crop it, but it wasn’t that big of a hassle. And now you can see why it’s a pretty terrific painting and why you may want to click on it which will take you to the competition website where you can vote for it.

But, when you click on the image, it will instead just take you to the first piece of art and good luck finding Kershisnik among all that other art. Because there’s a lot. Which is good, but it brings us to the second irritating element of this website: I can’t send you directly to the painting in question. The way the site is coded prevents each work from having a unique URL. And while that may make things load a bit faster, whoop-de-freaking-do.

These two issues add up to a huge problem in terms of the social network.

As I said up top, I don’t think there’s much overlap in my AMV audience and my Thumblr audience. Very few of the people following me directly on Tumblr are LDS, and only percentages of those who see links to Thumblr on Twitter or Facebook will make the leap. But a sizable percentage of those people are LDS anyway.

In other words, I’m taking Mormonism to the one place online where most of my friends ain’t Mormon, and all they’re seeing are snippets of artwork (which, if whole, they might really like) and a link that might as well go to a 404 page for all the help it’s going to give them in finding the whole version.

Now, if I had noticed that the images were chopped up before I uploaded them all, I suppose I could have done what I did above: screeshot/crop/save/upload. But I posted 47 images and that would have taken me forever.

I’m frustrated.

Here I am, trying to bring Mormon stuff to this incredibly secular audience I’ve been building, and all I’m really doing is giving them weird rectangles of no apparent anything. I expect I’m going to actually lose followers over the next week as I run competition images.

And what an opportunity this could have been for the Church! If the Mormon Lit Blitz can get people to read, then how easy should it have been to share pictures around the Internet? The website should have little buttons for each image, making it easy to share them on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr or Pinterest. Instead they put a series of walls up in a misguided effort to (I assume)¬†protect the images from—wait for it—being spread around the Internet.

And the thing is—the competition is already a success in the simple sense that many of the works are excellent and that they represent a wide variety of styles and subject matters and origins. There’s something here for everyone. Probably several somethings.

It’s a shame the art competition’s webteam decided they didn’t want to let us make known these wonderful works to all the world.

22 comments: “Make Known His Wonderful Works:
The LDS international art competition and a failure of web-imagination

  1. cspokey

    I am one of the few who read you here and follow your tumblr. I was really confused about the odd rectangles, and since I usually view tumblr on my iPhone, I didn’t click through to see that these weren’t the whole work of art. What a waste!

  2. Katya

    I hear you, Theric, on every count (except that I can’t do a screenshot grab of the art because I have to be more careful about copyright). The sad thing is that the very oldest Church Art Competition they have online is embeddable and direct hyperlink-able because they were just using HTML and not Flash.

  3. Katya

    Also, whose bright idea was it to arrange the images by the artist’s first name?

  4. Inari

    I ran into this exact same problem earlier – and with the Kershisnik picture too. I wanted to share my favourites from the contest with my online art friends (all non-members), but since there was no way to link to the artworks, I gave up and thought I’d figure out a way to do it later (so the art contest tab is now slowly perishing amongst the disproportionate amount of open tabs. I doubt I’ll get round to it, especially since it sounds undoable in the end. Might go the way of screenshot, we’ll see. I sure hope they fix at least direct linking thing.

    As a technical note, I guess maybe they did the images in pieces like that because the pictures are zoomable on the art contest page (I would have just used a humongous original, but my Flash-work is never optimal and always ends up with giant load times, so…)

  5. Th.

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    Incidentally, my wife tells me this is not Joseph the Smith but Joseph the carpenter. That may be, but I would argue that, at the very least, the painting has a built-in ambiguity. Look at that Joseph. Who does he look like to you?

    Incidentally, the contest has another painting of Joseph the carpenter holding baby Jesus. I would like to link to it but, you know.

  6. Katya

    I’ve been adding some of these works to my wiki and I’ve had some success in finding alternate image sources which allow for direct links. But I’m only finding alternate links about 25% of the time and it’s still a pain.

  7. Katya

    It’s not actually too bad. I can usually determine pretty quickly if there’s anything usable out there, so long as they haven’t retitled their work for the competition (especially if they’ve retitled it across a language or writing system barrier). And, on the plus side, it means that I’m finding a lot of the personal web sites of these artists, which should come in handy, later.

    Also, I think they’ve let it a much larger and more diverse group than ever before (or they’ve had more success at getting the word out), either of which is good.

  8. Katya

    !

    I think they changed the code. If I right click on an image now, it gives me the option to “view image,” which includes a ghastly but apparently stable web link. (I haven’t yet checked if the link is session-based.)

  9. Katya

    What browser are you using? I’m getting the whole thing in FF. However, after looking more closely at the URL, it doesn’t appear to be complete, so maybe it is session-based.

    Does the link that lets you save it work? (And does it make a difference that it’s a png, not a jpeg?)

  10. Th.

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    I’m using Chrome. Maybe it varies by image? Because it’s either one whole image or it isn’t.

  11. Katya

    I tried previewing several different images, though, and I saw the whole image for all of them.

    On a related topic, when I find a web site for one of the artists in this show, would you like me to post the link here?

  12. Th.

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    Sure. That seems like a good idea. Or if you have an offsite list and want the traffic, you could just post a link thereto.

  13. Katya

    They’ll all be added to my wiki, eventually, but they’re not really compiled at the moment, so I’ll just post them here.

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