The Burning of the Provo Tabernacle
One of the primary ways I see the world is through the lens of art. I remember a remarkable professor, Norma Davis, saying that after she saw the sculpture of Henry Moore, she never looked at natural rock formations in the same way again. That’s stayed with me and I often find myself looking anew at the world–and people–because of my relationships with art.
Yesterday, the Provo Tabernacle burned down and all who have attended concerts, church services, addresses, and other events in this nineteenth-century architectural gem are mourning its loss. Delicate stained glass, elaborately worked wood, and paintings by beloved LDS artist Minerva Teichert were among the casualties. When I heard the news, I cried. And when I ventured downtown to see its remains, I wept.
And I saw the works of Romantic artists J.M.W. Turner and Caspar David Friedrich appear before me. And I recall how hordes of Londoners gathered to watch the burning of the Houses of Parliament and how they stood entranced before the sublime spectacle, with flames engulfing the architecture and mirrored in the waters of the Thames, and the billowing clouds of smoke obscuring the familiar lines of the building’s gothic architecture and creating new contours to the cityscape. Turner captured this powerful experience in his iconic canvases of 1834. And when I looked with dismay at the carcass of the most architecturally interesting and culturally meaningful building in Provo, Friedrich’s Abbey in the Oak Forest of 1809-10 appeared before me. In this painting, the tracery of the lancet windows, emptied of their stained glass, is mimicked by the delicate lines of the branches of the oak trees that surrounded that ruined abbey.
Over the years, these two paintings have spoken to me about the power of nature and of God, of the cycles of seasons and ages of men, and of the inevitability of loss and death, yes, but also the assurance of generation–and regeneration.
Conversation topics: If you have lived in Provo, share your favorite memory of the Tabernacle. If you’ve had an experience that was filtered and refined by your engagement with art, share it.
And P.S. Apparently none of my tweets for the last two or so months have been linked to the site. I’m working on fixing it. But you can follow me with my erratic tweeting @ ArtHistorySalon