17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

This Ain't Your Mother's House

I love spending time at my mom's house. In fact, I was there last week on a weeklong furlough from my husband and kids. It is quiet, cozy and full of fun childhood memories. And while I appreciate her aesthetic...probably best described as LDS rustic...lots of cross stitch in frames, oak, baskets, tasteful flower fabric prints, LDS art, puffy furniture...it is not my own.

Ever a work in progress, my own home would probably be considered modern, minimalist, warm, Latino. Picture Ikea meets Diego Rivera. It reflects both my neurosis for clean lines and organization, and my husband's Hispanic heritage. A snapshot of our home: Warm paint and furniture tones, clay pottery, simple lines on the furniture and glassware, framed prints from Latin American artists, black and white family photos. I don't know if it completely works from a designer's point of view, but it is comfortable to us.

If a home is supposed to reflect the family that occupies it, my home is missing something pretty important: an LDS identity. Suppose an archeologist were to dig up the remains of our home hundreds of years from now. Aside from our scriptures and a few church books, a scientist would probably conclude my family was without a faith.

That makes me sad. I would like our home to reflect our faith and its walls to provoke lively religious discussion. As the presence of books in a home inspires an atmosphere of learning, I want to remind our children that our religious beliefs follow us home on Sundays.

THE PROBLEM: To me, LDS art and decor is at best unoriginal, and usually kitschy enough to make me cringe. I KNOW there must be good stuff out there. TftCarrie led me to one treasure, although it may not have a lot of meaning if you don't have a NYC connection. Times and Seasons also explored this issue in previous posts here and here, but it theoretical and I am looking for more practical advice, an LDS blog version of a home design show if you will.

But mostly I am interested in how you reflect your faith in your own home, especially if you do it in a way that avoids a shopping trip to Deseret Book or Mormon Handicraft.


  • Oooh. I think this is such a fantastic post--because I have wondered the same thing. It's not to be critical of people who have the art/quotes/proclamation framed, it's just that it's, as you said, like everybody else. I just haven't been able to do it. And I laugh about saying how I want to be "original" in my decor--everything we own is from when we were first married--inexpensive, generic, unoriginal, and I consider somewhat boring. Oh well! Upgrades in the future...ha ha.

    I just don't have the answers. But I want them! Mabye we could cleverly hang/frame the art or somehow get black and whites. Is there anything besides art? My dh had a small sunstone replica he kept on his desk at work. I have a small clay oil lamp (ie: ten virgins) in a box somewhere.

    This doesn't so much say "religion" but it does show their value of families--My mother in law had a large painting done of her 4 boys at their family ranch--the favorite summer vacation place. She had an artist paint each boy playing as they looked at the age of 4. It's really quite cute and sentimental (and probably cost an arm and a leg). It's certainly original.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 11/12/2006 05:16:00 PM  

  • I think you just have to find a way to make it work for you.


    Yes, that is the Distribution-Center issues print of the temple we were married in, but I think the red wall and composition of photos makes it mine.

    I did some weird stuff with family history photos here:


    . . . maybe you could use the standard issue LDS photos (temples, etc.) and do some formats that fit your own sense of home.

    Julie M. Smith
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/12/2006 05:42:00 PM  

  • I am in the process of trying a little harder to have some original photos in my home. I am gathering old photos of all of dh and I grandparents at various ages throughout their lives. I want to have a place in my home where I can see them often and hopefully try to appreciate the hardships of their lives, and realize how easy I have it compared to them.
    posted by Blogger Jessie at 11/12/2006 07:04:00 PM  

  • I'm totally with you on this, Jen! Except that if my DH had his druthers, our house would be identical to your mom's. Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-) It's just totally not my style -- I want bright colors, I want abstract art, I want whimsy! I want original canvases, not mass-produced prints in mass-produced frames. I simply don't like the Mormon kitsch from Deseret Book, and I have no desire for that good ol' pioneer aesthetic you'd find at Mormon Handicraft. Nothing wrong with it; it's just not me. :-P

    I know there must be some LDS art out there for us -- the Ensign features non-DB stuff periodically. One of my favorites (from Aug 06) is called Theophany: Visible Manifestation of God by Valeriano Ugolini. It may not be the Latin-style look that would suit your home -- but hey, it's definitely not Greg Olsen! And I'm sure, especially with the growth of the church in Latin American areas, that there are LDS artists out there making things just for you.

    Not that I have any idea where to find them (or even where to find Valeriano Ugolini, for me). :-P

    I have found a few things at Faithful Home that DH and I can both agree on: An Angel print (it's a little bit abstract!), the Holiness to the Lord tile, the Tree of Life thing.

    Still. There must be more out there SOMEWHERE. *Sigh!*
    posted by Blogger RCH at 11/12/2006 07:16:00 PM  

  • rch, some Valeriano Ugolini info for you here and here in case you haven't already found those. :-) And thanks for the Faithful Home link, I'd never been to that site but there's some interesting stuff on there.

    At the moment, we have almost nothing on any of our walls. Either haven't gotten around to it, or haven't found the right thing, or waiting to paint a wall. (Zinone and Chloe would be horrified to see all that beautiful blank space going to waste!) But even if every piece of art and photography I had in my closet was hung on the wall, there wouldn't be a LDS identity to it either. I think this falls into both the "haven't gotten around to it" and "haven't found the right thing" categories, so thanks for bringing it up Jen! I hope there are many more inspired decorators out there who can help us out.
    posted by Blogger marian at 11/12/2006 07:43:00 PM  

  • LOVE the Ugolini works. Love them! (canb't afford them, though...)

    When I first joined the church, ward members felt kindly compelled to gift us with all sorts of LDS art for our walls- you've seen everything- local temple, wintertime, picture frame with mat made up of Olsen prints cut to fit, framing the Living Christ, a FHE board, the proclomation and pictures of the first presidency...

    I thought I had to put all this stuff up to be a Mormon, and it kind of freaked me out- especially since I am an artist!

    Since the gifts were given in kindness, I put each one up for a while, then rotated them out.

    Now, our walls display family photographs- all black and white, framed to fit the mood of the picture. I figure I can have a picture of the temple up, but it can be one I took, a b&w from a funky angle- or somthing like that. This works for me.

    A VT asked me where my picture of Jesus was in our house, so I framed a small one I like and put him on the piano with all the other b&w family pictures. There is also a framed picture of an alligator, at my husbands request, to represent his family. Maybe we're too whimsical...

    Books. Books speak volumes. (oh man, no pun intended. I need some sleep).

    Sometimes I wonder: does displaying all the pharaphenelia of Mormon life equate to praying aloud on the street corner? Isn't having the faith in the heart so much more important than having the signs around pointing out that "faith here- in this house!"
    posted by Blogger tracy m at 11/12/2006 11:53:00 PM  

  • Very interesting topic Jen. I've been thinking about this for a couple of reasons.

    1. We just moved so I am rethinking everything we have had on our walls. I really wanted to get a new picture of Christ that wasn't so common in Mormon circles. We settled on Minerva Teichert's one of the lost lambs, and had it matted and framed to go in our bedroom. I love it.

    2. In quite a few of my meetings recently, in our home ward and other places, the recent talk by Elder Ballard (I think?) on a gospel centered home has been discussed. He talks about how our home is a missionary tool and how the things we have on our wall should suggest our Mormonness--I haven't read it, but this is what the people giving lessons/talks have discussed. Still, I haven't figured out what I want to hang in our more public areas though.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 11/13/2006 06:15:00 AM  

  • We also have the Minerva Teichert 'lost lambs' painting in our house - mainly because it was the picture that one first saw when coming out of the celestial room in the Melbourne, Australia temple, where I served my mission. It fits our house far more than the Greg Olsen picture my brother got us when we were married. (The Minerva Teichert is also near my Shirin Neshat pic, which contains spiritual value for me.)
    My husband and I have a very eclectic style - every room is painted in a bright color and we've decided to buy furniture, art, etc., because we like it, not because it matches. We buy prints on vacations as souveniers, so our walls are covered with our memories. We do have a framed proclamation (which I don't like - I always say 'I'm working on have a testimony of that'), but it's next to a movie poster on our wall (both dh and I studied film and work in entertainment, so we have some very 'low brow' stuff on our walls.) My husband proudly displays his collection of 'The Book of Mormon' on gold records - a fun piece of Mormon kitsch.
    posted by Blogger VirtualM at 11/13/2006 07:00:00 AM  

  • And do copies of 'Sunstone' sitting on the coffee table count?
    posted by Blogger VirtualM at 11/13/2006 07:03:00 AM  

  • I'm totally with you on this one. I'm just not a Mormon Handicraft/cross-stitch kinda gal and sometimes have a pang of guilt when they say we should display our faith in our home.

    What works for me is I have some framed watercolors of my favorite venues in Jerusalem (the Western Wall and the Garden Tomb). These serve as reminders of my time spent there but don't compromise my sense of taste.
    posted by Blogger Amber at 11/13/2006 07:22:00 AM  

  • Thanks everyone, for your comments (and links!) so far....

    Katie: I feel your pain....our house is full of IKEA...the style I do like, but I see it in a lot of other people's houses too. I always tell myself when our kids get older and the furniture is "safe" from destruction...and assuming we have the funds...I will find more original pieces.

    Julie S.: Thanks for sharing pictures of your home...I think it is beautifully done. I think you are right, you can do a ton to improve LDS art by finding creative ways to display it.

    RCH: Thanks for the links. I fell in love with the Ugolini stuff too. Really beautiful! And I think
    Faithful Home is a step up from DB.
    Also, your idea about finding hispanic LDS artists is very intruiging....maybe I'll have to do some research or take a trip or two....for the sake of making my home a more sacred place of course ;-)

    Tracy M: "Does displaying all the pharaphenelia of Mormon life equate to praying aloud on the street corner?" -- That is a really interesting question and I do think there is some truth to it. Some LDS houses I've seen are praying VERY loudly....although you can definetely find a good balance in your home, I believe.

    I also liked your statement about books speaking volumes...I've been thinking about buying some more of my fav church books in hard cover to display....finding first editions, etc. would also be fun.

    And your "allegator representation" of your inlaws is too funny!

    Michelle & VirtualM: I do love the Minerva Teichert lost lamb print...thanks for the reminder!
    posted by Blogger Jen at 11/13/2006 08:26:00 AM  

  • michelle, I could never have a framed picture of Jesus in my BEDroom because of the non-sleeping activities that occur there...I guess I could always dim the lights.

    I too have not gotten onto the mormon art bandwagon, though I do have some crosstitching on my walls, but only one. I recently found this in a Deseret Book Catalog and thought it might be nice to hang in my daughter's room, but I didn't order it.

    I am totally ok with not having anything Mormony hanging on my walls. Hopefully I won't have to resort to my walls for topics of conversations when guests come over...I guess if I was shy or didn't talk very much, it would be more important...but I am pretty open about who I am and what I believe...so I think it's ok.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 11/13/2006 10:08:00 AM  

  • If any of you are interested in a more doctrinal perspective of art in the church, you should read a talk by Elder Boyd K. Packer entitled "The Arts and the Spirit of the Lord." Sorry I don't know how to create a link for it, but you can find it on LDS.org. I love it because he basically admits that Mormon art, music, and poetry suck and that we as members of the church have a responsiblity to strengthen our talents and use them to create good art that will express our love and testimony of those sacred things in which we so fervently believe in. I often find myself complaining about the music in the church, but after reading the talk I decided that perhaps I shouldn't wait around for someone to write something good. I decided to start writing my own songs and creating my own arrangements. It's taking me a whole lot of work and I hope soon that I will be able to mail my arrangement of "Be Still My Soul" to Elder Packer and express thanks to him for his inspiring message. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that, if you have the talents, create your own art. I can't think of a better way of expressing your own personal beliefs while also creating something beautiful for you're own home. It would even become a greater missionary tool because it would express you're own personal testimony. I encourage everyone, it you have been given such gifts, to use them and to encourage those around you to use them as well.
    posted by Blogger Mia at 11/13/2006 10:44:00 AM  

  • I am currently working on having a comprehensive portfolio of very artistic, modern photography of Temples. This idea was born out of exactly what you are talking about here - all of the art currently (easily) available is sooo bad. I do want to have some of this on my walls - the temple especially, but, only if it matches my taste. So, Im currently working on making some so its available. Hopefully soon I will have Houston, Seattle, and Portland temples available. And before too long I will add all the SoCal temples as well.

    I also told my little sister I would make her a cool poster of the YW theme that matched her room, so if I get around to that :) I will let you all know (and maybe do the family proc at the same time). But, I think if you are so inclined, this is really the solution - dont like the printed ones? Make your own!
    posted by Anonymous Veritas at 11/13/2006 11:43:00 AM  

  • I have the same problem Jen. I would actually like to have some more religious/spiritual art up in my home, but nothing I have found really fits my taste. And from the looks of the many other commentors, there is definitely a market for some different (yet affordable?) mormon art.

    I love the photo of the NYC temple by John Moe. And I love Christmastime when I get to pull out my creche's from around the world.

    I have also been thinking about creating some of my own using pictures, paint, canvas and other collage materials.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 11/13/2006 01:52:00 PM  

  • this is a great subject.

    I honestly have never liked "nik- nac's" and to me...most mormon art work, pictures etc.. look like just that. I feel cluttered with it all over. I do have a beautiful photo of Christ and the temple framed in our home...that is it.

    Yes I have been given the guilt trip from my husbands parents that I need all the traditional mormon art in our home.

    I dont believe that I have to prove my spirituality, and love for my religion on my walls. I dont think it makes you any more richteous, or a "stronger" member of the church. Hello??

    What I do feel is important is that you feel the spirit when you walk in my home. And I have had many people tell me just that. The home FEELs good to be in.

    I may never LOVE the traditional mormon decoations. I dont feel bad about not putting them on my walls to prove my faith. Any one who knows me, knows what my beliefs are, and more importantly, my husband and I know excatly who we are and what we believe.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/13/2006 06:09:00 PM  

  • Wow, this is one of my family's favorite topics! I guess that's what you get when your FIL works for the Museum of Church History and Art. There's some beautiful stuff there. That's a great place to start, by the way. You can get prints in their bookstore of some of their cooler stuff that is very much not Deseret Book style. Also, my FIL, Richard Oman, wrote a book called Images of Faith, which has some pretty cool stuff in it, and could give you some ideas where to start.

    If you are serious about this (and my FIL is oh so serious!)you could also spend some time researching Mormon artists. You might have to go to Utah to do it, and look at some of the museums and galleries there. There is some fun stuff at the Springfield museum, and I even found a very different picture of Christ in a little hole in the wall gallery in Cedar City. Too bad my dog ate it before I could get it framed.

    Dh also ordered some awesome architechial drawings of the Salt Lake and Nauvoo temple online, done by Doug Corbett . They are a little different than your typical picture of the temple. We had them both matted and framed with black frames, and put them side by side. We have other black and white accents in art on our walls, and, like somebody else said, it may not work with a decorator's scheme, but we like it, and we do get comments on our Mormon art all the time. Of course, not everybody gets to have the angel Moroni weather vane from the Nauvoo temple, dressed in temple robes, carved in brass and mounted on a piece of the tabernacle's old roof, but, like I said, that's what you get when your FIL works as a curator for the Church museum.

    We also, by the way, have a large beehive on display in a spot that was very much "dead space" in our home. I know it sounds weird, but we got it from Colonial Williamsburg, and it was just too cool to pass up. We paired it with an 18th century rake, also purchased at Colonial Williamsburg, and some dried Indian corn and live plants around it. So basically we are using a very Mormon symbol in an extremely different way, in a way that represents something else important to us--gardening. I smile every time I pass it.

    And you can never go wrong with Minerva Teichert.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 11/14/2006 03:48:00 PM  

  • Here are some examples of Teichert's prints for sale, for anybody not familiar with her work.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 11/14/2006 04:08:00 PM  

  • Gosh! Great post, Jen. And great responses from everyone. Thanks to all for the ideas, links, thoughts, etc.

    My only opinion about art that I display in my home is that it means something to me personally--comes from some place I've lived (not just visited, usually), was created by someone I know, or came forth out of my family's shared experience. I'm loving collecting images and photographs from all the different countries we have and will live in.

    But I often wonder if art and Mormonism are fundamentally in conflict--at least, art as it often exists in our world today. So much art is about criticism--criticizing, pointing out, exposing flaws and problems in the human experience. It seems that the art that celebrates, glorifies, or praises is classified as sentimental or saccharine. I haven't thought about this a lot, so I'm sure my ideas will be revised. But I always wonder if the kind of melding of art and expression of Mormon faith that Packer, etc. talk about is even possible. The art I know best is literature, and almost all good literature is very critical of the people/experiences it explores. Are Mormons ready for that kind of art?
    posted by Blogger sunny at 11/14/2006 11:41:00 PM  

  • Hi I know this is an old post but I just stumbled upon it the other day. I work with faithfulhome.com and your comments are exactly the void we are trying to fill. We are a pretty new company and have many products in the works that would fit great into this aesthetic. So keep checking back with us!

    Here's just one idea of a way to use one of our items to create something unique but faith inspiring for your home:

    Check out the Liberty Jail Replica Key. It's great as is as an accent on a table scape on a stack of art books say. But it would really be great framed out in a shadow box with a large white matte and black frame. Take it up one more level and have a verse or two from Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief cut out of clear vinyl in a square shape, apply it to your wall and hang the shadow boxed key on top of it. The clear vinyl will create a subtle change in the sheen of your paint and visitors will have to look twice to see it. It'd be a great effect.

    Anyway, we are always looking for new products that are stylish, a little modern, and faith inspiring. So if you know of an artist or craftsperson who creates such items, give us their name so we can add their items to our store.

    posted by Anonymous Heather at 2/09/2007 01:31:00 PM  

  • You can contact Valeriano Ugolini at ugolinifineart.com
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 5/30/2007 12:38:00 PM  

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