Utah is often spoken of as a cultural monolith, even a theocracy, where church and state are inexorably intertwined. While recent legislation reminds us of the enormous sway the hierarchy of the LDS church does exert over state politics, it should not be forgotten that there has also existed a dynamic tension between church and state, ever since Johnston’s army set up cannons above Salt Lake City at Fort Douglas. Even in the beginning, miners have held sway alongside Mormons, so that both groups push and pull against and with each other, especially in cultural domains like the arts. The State of Utah and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been the biggest collectors of art in the state, and the dynamic between the two has done a great deal to determine our cultural heritage. Pulling from recent acquisitions by both institutions, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art’s Church vs. State: Contemporary Collecting Praxis examines this dynamic in a structurally impressive and informative show.
Read the review in the March 15, 2015 edition of 15 Bytes.
Ehren Clark studied art history at both the University of Utah and the University of Reading in the UK. He is now a professional writer living in Salt Lake City.