Windows on the World

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-4-04-27-pmKimberly A. Reid

When it came to selecting and placing art in the Joseph F. Smith Building soon after it was completed, the building committee knew they wanted something that could provide observers an intellectual and spiritual experience. The building itself, which turned 10 this year, was carefully constructed to represent the disciplines and faith studied within—arcaded perimeters recalling universities of old, light permeating all sides and exemplifying the quest for light and truth, a fountain reminding the university community of its spiritual heritage, and glass-panel collages in every department office, reinforcing the theme of light in a variety of languages and traditions. 

To augment the rich symbolism of the building the committee first turned to the Middle Ages for inspiration. Philosophy Department chair Joseph D. Parry, who served on the subcommittee for the building’s artwork, says four ways of seeing the world in the Middle Ages became the rubric for choosing and placing art throughout the third floor: (1) the literal view, looking at the world in its rich detail and beauty; (2) the typological view, looking through the world to see the source of meaning; (3) the tropological view, the moral of a story; and (4) the analogical view, looking up to see the world as an unfolding of God’s larger purposes and plans. This is accomplished through a combination of photographs in the hallways and sculptures in the alcoves.

For the fourth floor, images were selected to emphasize the differences and discontinuities between the past and the present. “The images depict a lost world, as well as one that is past,” says Parry. “Past civilizations in these images are remote but also evoke a sense of wonder at the sophistication of civilizations we have often considered ‘primitive’ from our modern perspective.”

Infusing the college community with art that bridges the divide between the intellectual and the spiritual was also a driving factor, says former dean John R. Rosenberg, also a member of the building committee. “I think what the artwork does is remind us that beauty matters,” says Rosenberg, “that beauty is one way in which God’s intelligence is glorious. By surrounding ourselves with thought-provoking beauty that possesses a spiritual quality, we reinforce the fundamental mission of the college.”

Humanities Magazine Fall 2016 Full Issue