Guest Post: Mormon Women Art Project
This guest post comes from Ashley Mae Christensen. To see more of her lovely work and read about her the project, go to her blog where this poster can also be purchased.
“We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another, and gain instruction that we may all sit down in heaven together.”
Lucy Mack Smith
It is easy to believe you are small, even insignificant in the world. I’ve done a fair share of wondering in the deepest parts of my heart, where I had assumed there was simply no one else around those places to whisper a good word to my doubts and fears.
I live in a quiet place. Some days, I only talk to 10-month old son, Remy, the three nine-year old boys in my courtyard, and my husband when he gets home from school. But in my heart, women I hadn’t known until now are slowly filing into those deep places. They are my friends, better yet, my advocates.
They seem to nod to me, tell me to keep going, to work hard, to speak up, that I am good, even better than I think I am. We even celebrate together. I met these women one at a time. I am getting to know them through their words. Some through stories told by others, some typed out in books they’ve composed, and others in speeches spoken in front of many people.
I was inspired to take up this project after I had painted a similar series of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency of the church. I didn’t feel right about offering a painting of fifteen men for people to put in their homes without a companion of equally influential and important women to put up alongside it. I felt like the men in the first painting would agree with me. As the idea for the Mormon women artwork formed I realized that there really wasn’t any resource or visual gathering of these women. It made me sad to think that in many Mormon households there are prominent photos and paintings of Mormon men, but rarely are we exposed to Mormon women. I thought a lot about myself as a youth, and even now, as a young mother in a new city, I wondered which women I could invite into my own life and hopefully the lives of others to bless, uplift and inspire.
I’ve found a new resolution to love myself while still expecting much of myself while reading the words of Chieko Okazaki; proof that our writing does make of difference through the example of Emmeline B. Wells; courage to make art about my religious convictions through Minerva Teichert; more reason to stick up for what I believe in through Esther Peterson; peace in working hard and moving forward the best way I know how through Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
I want the stories, the words, the faces of Mormon women to be in our lives. I realize that the images on this work are by no means comprehensive. I want our Young Women to learn about these women at Wednesday night activities and camp, I want Remy to respect and love them and then in turn, I want us to love ourselves more because we know about them. I want these women to continue to teach me daily so I can better know how to teach others around me. I don’t want this artwork to simply be a tribute to these women, although it is partially that. I want this artwork to celebrate that within the gospel there is a place for women who do grand and public things, but there is also a place for women who do equally important work that is quiet and may never be known publicly. I want the artwork to inspire Mormon women to be better, but also to realize that they are already probably better than they think they are. I want us to be able to celebrate collective accomplishments, both large and small. Perhaps the most important part of the painting is the space left to insert your own photograph.
I want the stories, the words, the faces of Mormon women to be in our lives. I realize that the images on this work are by no means comprehensive. I want our Young Women to learn about these women at Wednesday night activities and camp, I want Remy to respect and love them. I want these women to continue to teach me daily. This is why I am doing this project.
I am grateful now to be learning in depth about these women, but it makes me sad that it has taken until so recently. Why had I not heard some of their names before? I think I could have found solidarity and confidence in my youth had I known these stories. I cling to them now. I vacillate between feeling so excited about this project that I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder, how can I get this to every woman I know, and then there are times of extreme self doubt where I think ‘silly silly silly, no one cares.’
Funny though, it seems to be precisely in those times when the words I’ve been reading seem to take life, and I picture these twenty-four women all in my living room, eating warm bread and honey, looking lovely and telling me, ‘Go ahead, do the things you feel you should do.’