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New BYU Museum of Art exhibit explores ‘types and shadows’ of Jesus Christ

Those who read sacred religious texts are familiar with interpreting the literary devices — metaphors, parables and allegories — employed to communicate deeper spiritual meaning. A new exhibition at the Museum of Art seeks to help visitors become more familiar with interpreting the visual symbols that artists employ to communicate profound truths about the life and mission of Jesus Christ.

“Types and Shadows: Intimations of Divinity,” on view from Friday, Sept. 18, through March 13, will encourage viewers to participate in the process of seeking out and finding meaning in the symbols, metaphors and veiled visual references that “point to” the divine mission of Jesus Christ.

The exhibition will be in the Warren and Alice Jones and Paul and Betty Boshard galleries on the museum’s lower level. Admission is free.

The 44 works in this exhibition, which include paintings, prints and sculpture, have been selected to guide the viewer through a process of seeing beyond obvious and familiar narratives. By carefully examining the visual elements within the works of art in this exhibition, visitors will find fresh meanings that resonate with their personal spiritual experiences and increase their understanding.

“Religious art is often inspired by the artist’s most personal expressions of faith and belief,” says Dawn Pheysey, curator of religious art at the Museum of Art. “These images often have the power to articulate sacred truths that resonate with our own spiritual feelings. And just as determined searching of the scriptures expands our understanding, the careful study of sensitive religious depictions can lead to new insight and comprehension about profound gospel doctrines.”

In the scriptures, types and shadows promise the coming of the Messiah, proclaim his divinity, and anticipate his life and supreme sacrifice.

For instance, the manna from heaven provided for the Israelites served as a type of Christ: “the living bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:51).

By definition, a type is an intended similarity between a person, object or event, and another person, object or event. A shadow is similar in meaning, but refers to something that will follow or come to pass in the future.

Museum curators and educators have designed an interpretive program for this exhibition to assist visitors in the process of seeing beyond the obvious. One component of this in-gallery program is a 44-page study guide titled “The Image Speaks:

A Study Guide for Religious Art,” produced in cooperation with the BYU Religious Studies Center.

This guide will lead visitors through eight strategies they can use to interpret and make meaning

from the visual symbols in the works of art.

The exhibition will also feature a digital comment wall that will allow visitors to input their personal comments and observations about their viewing experience and learn from the comments and observations of others. Additionally, a cell phone audio tour will provide visitors with insights from a selection of the living artists represented.

“We hope these interpretive strategies will combine to enrich the viewing experience of our visitors for this fine selection of artworks, and build greater appreciation for the Savior and his ministry,” said Herman du Toit, Museum of Art educator.

The majority of the works of art is drawn from the Museum of Art’s permanent collection and includes works by Lee Udall Bennion, Carl Heinrich Bloch, Albrecht Dϋrer, Franz Johansen, Brian Kershisnik, David Linn, Rembrandt, Minerva Teichert and the School of Titan. Additional works by artists including William Blake, James C. Christensen, Arnold Friberg, Ron Richmond, Bruce Smith and Chris Young will be on loan from artists, private collections, and Utah art museums.

More information is available at

Free docent-led tours of “Types and Shadows: Intimations of Divinity” will be conducted during regular museum hours and must be scheduled at least one week in advance. Tours usually last about one hour. Call ext. 2-1140 to schedule a tour.

The Museum of Art is open Monday though Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday evening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Sunday.

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