Leslie Peterson’s collection of portraits titled “The Forgotten Wives of Joseph Smith” will be on display in Dixie State University’s North Plaza Building starting on Friday, Oct. 2. An artist reception will open the exhibit on that Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. The exhibit will be on display through Oct. 29.
The LDS Church released official documents last October detailing Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy, in which he secretly married many women and girls, some already married to other church members and at least one who was only 14 years old. Peterson, angry that she hadn’t heard of the other 33 wives before, began working on “The Forgotten Wives of Joseph Smith.”
The exhibition includes watercolor portraits of each of the 34 wives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founder. Some of the pieces are based on photographs of the women, and others are based on written descriptions and the artist’s imagination. The show was displayed in the Writ and Vision Gallery in Provo and at the Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City earlier this year.
Nancy Ross, self-described Mormon feminist and art history professor at DSU, noted that Mormon art typically focuses on Jesus Christ, church leaders, and temples.
“In all paintings and illustrations, all Mormon pioneer women are nameless and faceless,” Ross told the New York Times’ Jennifer Dobner. “You might see a man and his family, but there’s no individualization. It doesn’t matter who the women are.”
“This is not the story of his relationship to them,” Ross said in the Times article. “This is them being represented on their own as individuals. It is celebrating their lives and who they are, and it’s not trying to be reductive.”
DSU’s North Plaza Building is located at 46 S 1000 E in St. George. Admission is free, and the gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, contact Nancy Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org or (435) 879-4344.