SALT LAKE CITY—Three artists have been selected as winners of Visitors Choice Awards in an art exhibition at the Museum of Church History and Art.

More than five thousand votes were cast by museum patrons over the past four months for favorite works of art in the Museum’s Seventh International Art Competition: Our Heritage of Faith. The winning artworks are among 235 pieces by Latter-day Saint artists from forty-four countries created for the triennial competition. The art will remain on display through Labor Day, September 4, 2006.

Receiving the $500 cash awards are Benjamin McPherson, Provo, Utah, for his oil painting, And It Was Night…; Susan Comish, Provo, Utah, for an oil painting titled Sabbath Morning; and Justin Kunz, Sandy, Utah, for his oil painting, Always Remember Me .

This is the second major award for Benjamin McPherson in this exhibition. And It Was Night… was chosen by the exhibit jurors in March to receive a Merit Award. McPherson’s painting depicts Christ and the twelve apostles gathered around a table in a composition reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous fresco of the last supper. McPherson’s dramatic lighting focuses attention on the figure of the Savior. His devoted disciples are seated and leaning intently toward Him in contrast to Judas Iscariot, who stands and withdraws into the shadows.

Susan Comish’s painting expresses the challenges Latter-day Saint parents face on Sunday morning as they hurriedly get their large families ready for Church meetings. The father points at his watch to remind everyone that the meetings will soon begin, while mother frantically dresses and grooms the young, impatient children. Scattered throughout the painting are symbols of the family’s faithfulness — a portrait of the Savior, a pillow embroidered with the popular LDS saying “Families are Forever,” six-pointed stars that refer to endless posterity, and right angles symbolizing obedience.

Justin Kunz’s work examines the questions of faith and eternity. A young mother, holding a baby in her arms and a vase of yellow daisies in one hand, leans toward the gravestone of her deceased husband. Though she appears to stand alone in the cemetery, a large marble statue of the resurrected Christ stands in the background reminding her of the eternal nature of life and of hope in the resurrection.

Runners-up in the balloting were Claudio Ramires of Brazil, whose bright painting, Amigo, depicts two young Book of Mormon girls greeting the Savior with cheerful faces and broad smiles; Jay Ward of West Jordan, Utah, who painted Seed of Faith, another Book of Mormon scene showing a young Ammonite mother dropping a tiny seed into her son’s outstretched hand; Julie Rogers of Kanab, Utah, who painted Determination, an emotional handcart rescue scene depicting the story of the Kirkwood brothers who traveled with the Willie handcart company; and Derik Hegsted of Orem, Utah, who painted a full-length image of the Savior holding a tiny, premature baby in His hands.

Other favorites of summer visitors include Heed them Not by Sarah Merkley, Sandy, Utah; Armor of God by Michael Coppieters, Mapleton, Utah; The Good Shepherd by Eric Dowdle, Lindon, Utah; First Vision by Jeffrey Hein, Salt Lake City, Utah; Bringing Out the Best by Janice Andersen, Mesa, Arizona; and Three Figures of Humanity by Naomi Harper of Carmichael, California.

The exhibit is popular with Museum visitors because it features a wide range of art subjects and styles. Visitors have enjoyed the process of selecting their favorite work of art. According to exhibit curator Robert Davis, nearly every one of the works in the exhibit received a vote.

It is always interesting to compare the visitors’ favorites with those selected by the formal jury. Usually our visitors pick a different slate of winners, but this year one of the three winners was also originally selected by the formal jury,” Davis said.

Typically, there is rush to the Museum by visitors who have waited until the last minute to see this popular exhibit and others who want to see it again before it closes. After Labor Day, the exhibit will continue to be featured on the Museums website under previous exhibits at

The Museum is located across the street from the Tabernacle at 45 North West Temple, a half block north of the Temple Square TRAX station. Hours are 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. weekdays, and 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. on Saturday, Sunday, and most holidays. The Museum will be open from 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. on Labor Day, Monday, September 4. Admission is free.