SALT LAKE CITY – The Museum of Church History and Art announced today the opening of its international creche display. Visitors to the annual nativity display at the Museum of Church History and Art will have a unique experience this year as they view for the first time a splendid one-of-a- kind, recently acquired, creche from Sweden. The creche was created by Gerd Sjökvist, a prominent professional contemporary Latter-day Saint folk artist from Mockfjärd.
This world-class nativity scene is based on a traditional Swedish folk art style that originated in the eighteenth century in the Dalarna province of Sweden where Sjökvist lives. Around 1770, local artisans began painting the exteriors of the region’s small timber cottages with colorfully illustrated stories from the Bible. Curator Richard Oman said that the folk style from this region of Sweden features simplified human figures surrounded by beautiful borders of vibrant leaves and flowers.
Sjökvist’s nativity is a sculptural version of what has traditionally been done only in paintings. The creche features nearly two-dozen colorfully painted and handcrafted ceramic figurines that average ten inches high.
Joseph and Mary are dressed in traditional Swedish peasant costumes and rest in a stable that could easily be a barn from the Swedish countryside. Approaching on bridled stallions are three wise men who look like Swedish aristocrats dressed in top hats and tail coats. Other figures include an angel, shepherds, and barnyard animals. All are nestled in a large four-foot-wide painted village that resembles a Swedish hamlet.
According to Oman, the Swedish creche is one of the finest examples of international folk art in the Museum collection. Sjökvist combined her talents as a painter, sculptor, potter, furniture maker, and historian to create one of the most ambitious nativities ever displayed in the Museum.
Another new addition to this year’s display is a large watercolor painting by Jerry Harston. It was originally painted for the Ensign magazine and used on the cover of the December 1974 edition.
Two unique creche sets represent the cross-cultural interests of Navajo artists. Lapita Frewin’s leather creche done in the Plains Indian style of the Lakotas is made of brain-tanned buckskin and applied beads. Harrison Begay Jr.’s beautiful pottery creche is made of fired brownware in the tradition of the Santa Clara pueblo of New Mexico.
In all, sixteen creche scenes and four paintings are on display representing many artistic traditions and cultures from around the world. Countries represented include Sweden, Nigeria, Japan, Ecuador, Italy, Philippines, Peru, Colombia, Zaire, Sri Lanka, Germany, Tahiti, and the United States.
The nativities will be on display through Monday, December 31. Regular Museum hours are 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. weekdays and 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. on Saturdays, Sundays, and most holidays. The Museum will close at 5:00 P.M. on Christmas Eve, and will be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
The Museum is located one-half block north of the Temple Square TRAX station and across the street from the Tabernacle on Temple Square. Admission is free. For recorded information, call 801- 240-3310.