Cynthia Hallen’s watercolor painting “Kingdom: Doctrine & Covenants 65” shows how kingdoms of heaven and earth connect.
PROVO, Utah (Aug. 26, 2016)—Doctrine and Covenants 65:5 reads, in part, “The Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth.” Such was the prompt given by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a 2011 art contest. In response, associate professor of English language and linguistics Cynthia Hallen painted “Kingdom: Doctrine & Covenants 65.”
Though painted for the contest, the work had been growing in Hallen’s mind for a while. Early inspiration came from the Pseudepigrapha, a collection of Jewish legends and apocryphal writings. In one story, the angel Gabriel teaches Joseph of Egypt the 70 languages of the world, allowing him to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. According to the tradition set forth by the tale, Pharaoh sat at the top of 70 steps. When visited by a subject, Pharaoh would descend the steps to meet his visitor. When visited by an equal, such as a foreign ruler, Pharaoh would descend 35 steps to meet them halfway. But if his visitor knew the 70 languages of the world, they could ascend the 70 steps to speak with Pharaoh in his presence. Through the gift of tongues, Joseph was able to enter into the presence of the Pharaoh to interpret his dreams, and thus eventually become the ruler’s right-hand man.
“Learning the languages of the earth is symbolic of gaining knowledge to go into the presence of the Lord,” Hallen explains. “I wanted to have a pyramid that went all the way up 70 languages and have the Lord at the top. But it didn’t work right for the amount of space that I had to work with.” When she read the prompt given by the Church for the contest, Hallen realized a way to modify her vision, resulting in the painting’s ultimate design.
In the watercolor painting, heaven and earth, represented by mirrored triangles, reach for one another. “I wanted to catch the feeling of Christ bringing light, glory and celestial power to the earth,” Hallen said. “I also wanted to represent the efforts of His disciples to prepare the earth through personal revelation, priesthood power and charity.”
The triangles meet in a diamond bearing the word “Amen,” Hebrew for “It is true.” “It’s Christ who’s going to bring the Kingdom of Heaven down to the earth,” Hallen explains. “And one of His names is Truth as stated in His own words: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6).” The white diamond here represents Christ coming to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to meet the Kingdom on Earth.” Pulling from the legend of Joseph, the painting contains “truth” translated into 70 languages.
“My artwork is a way to draw nearer to the Lord,” Hallen says. While taking a figure drawing class at BYU, Hallen learned the artistic technique of “touching.” She explains, “You use your pencil to lightly outline the correct proportions of a figure. Such touching is a very spiritual way of drawing near in order to understand the true nature of someone’s being in detail.” She adds, “Drawing becomes a way to draw near to the Savior. It’s a quest and it’s a process, but it’s a way to see the face of the Lord.”
—Samuel Wright (B.A. American Studies ’16)