Years ago, when I came back to church, part of me was under the impression that a good Mormon housewife should own all the major categories of LDS religious “art”. To decorate my home as a young wife, I quickly (and cheaply) ordered the very distinct portrait of Christ in a red robe, the one of Him surrounded by children, the landscape of Him visiting the Nephites, and a few others. I felt like such a good member missionary, able to clearly identify myself as both a Christian and Latter-day Saint to any non members that happened to come into my home. I even framed the Proclamation on the Family and the Living Christ to flank the sides of Christ’s handsomely stern yet vaguely loving face. Over the years I received as gifts other pieces of art, perhaps less recognizable to those outside church culture, but very conforming to the inner standards of what it means to be devout and “with it” as far as US church culture goes (Greg Olsen anyone?).
But in the last few years, I have become increasingly ill at ease with the decor of my home. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of the visual reminders of discipleship, but that I had conformed so thoughtlessly to aspects of a culture that I had very little else in common with. These paintings weren’t reflective of my own personal taste or even religious vision. I was intimately familiar with places like the Louvre and the Hermitage. I knew good art. So why was my home void of it?
Well, I’ve been slowly remedying this gap in my portrayal of self. I’ve replaced most of what I used to have with pieces that still communicate my beliefs, but in a way that feels closer to what I feel and see in my mind’s eye as the nature of God. I still feel drawn to include religious art in my home, but much more on my own terms. A couple years ago for my birthday I bought a few Minerva Teicherts to jumpstart these changes. I particularly love her scene of Jesus with Mary and Martha, and feel that it speaks to all the sides of the woman I am and can become. I also recently added da Vinci’s Head of Christ to my entry way. Unlike most LDS depictions of Him, da Vinci portrayed Christ as neither masculine nor feminine, but as truly encompassing all traits. And for my stairway, his Woman’s Face that I am appropriating as my own divine feminine. Along with more paintings that include Mary, both alone and with her babe, I am feeling the pull to create a strong sense of the female divine in my home for my daughters.
I’m also trying to include more art that reflects nature; an aspect of the divine that I want within my home and not just outside it. So my sense of expression is evolving. Not sure where it will end up, but I like where it’s going better. And of course, in full disclosure, I do still have painted boards with vinyl letters from years of RS activities on a few of my walls. I guess I don’t hate them enough yet to find replacements for them. Or I’m too lazy. Please don’t judge me. Also, decorating is not one of my talents – my walls are all beige.
What about you? What type of art do you like to have around you? Do you think it is important to have your religious beliefs portrayed visually in your home? Share your choices in this week’s poll, and you can always vote for more than one at a time.