We often think of photography as a more immediate medium than say painting or sculpture. But Provo artist Megan Knobloch Geilman just finished a photographic work that was started over a year ago, before the pandemic.
Geilman’s work uses art historical reference and symbolic objects to explore doctrine, history, and social issues within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her pieces at Artists of Utah’s 35×35 exhibition last year explored historical figures from the church’s founding and development in the 19th century.
“[My current] series is exploring classical Christo-centric imagery from art history,” Geilman says, “but representing Christ symbolically (unknowingly relevant since there’s been a lot of discussion lately about how Christ is represented — Ireally appreciated Rose Datoc Call’s zoom discussion early on in the pandemic). My last series used my own family and friends as models but for this series I’m also trying to involve people in the LDS cultural community. I also want to expand BIPOC representation, which is unfortunately sometimes at odds with the who’s who of the LDS cultural landscape, but this is a long term goal of mine and will definitely extend past this series.”
Spring City artist Lee Udall Bennion was cast as Mary in Geilman’s reinterpretation of Michelangelo’s “Pietà,” Replacing the body of Christ with a slaughtered sheep makes real the ties between Old Testament practices, hopes and beliefs and the passion of the Christ. The piece also illuminates ideas about our relationship to the earth, the costs of not engaging in consciousness about ecological issues, and a hope to repent and return to a sense of reciprocity. “So far, the series is also taking on a very ecofeminist slant which I am happy about. Lee specifically wanted to include her voice in that aspect. Coordinating a slaughtered sheep was the most difficult aspect and what I definitely spent the most time on. It was finally Dale Peel of Spring City that came through for us, I believe in large part because he is also an artist and had an easier time seeing my vision than the other sheep farmers I had talked to.”
The shot happened last August in Spring City. Joe Bennion, Lee’s husband and fellow artist, did the location scouting and found a barn that would suit Geilman’s needs. “I was very stressed about Covid, but less [with this shoot] than my Annunciation shoot because we were mostly working outside and I didn’t have to shoot two models separately. I hired a documentary filmmaker to capture the day, not sure what I’m going to do with the footage yet but this has been my most significant piece so far and I felt it was important.”
Geilman will be submitting the piece to the Springville Museum of Art’s Spring Salon this month and to the LDS Church’s International Art Competition later this year.
This 15 Bytes features talks with artists about what is on their “easel” right now.