A Sculptor's Testimony in Bronze and Stone: Sacred Sculpture of Avard T. Fairbanks
Eugene F. Fairbanks
Linda Paulson Adams
Publishers Press (Salt Lake City), 1994. Hardcover:
Suggested retail price: $21.95 (US)
This review is sadly overdue, and I apologize! Better late thannever, though, so here it is at last.
I was very happy to have the opportunity to review this book. My family knew the David Fairbanks family, one of AvardFairbanks' sons, when I was a little girl living in Baltimore,Maryland. I don't remember much about them personally, but I doremember quite a stir when the angel Moroni went up on top ofthe brand new Washington D.C. Temple. It was especially neatbecause we knew the artist's family. I don't recall whether Iever met Avard Fairbanks or not, but I did play with some of hisgrandchildren! On the cover of this book is a photograph of hisstatue, "The Vision," of the Prophet Joseph kneeling with hishand on his heart, looking up into heaven. A small copy of thisstatue was given to us by David Fairbanks and his wife Sylvia,after my mother tended their children while they were at thehospital welcoming a new baby into their family. I grew up withthat little statue accenting our living room, and I always likedit.
Before receiving this book, I knew that Bro. Fairbanks had donethe colossal angel Moroni statues (seen on top of our temples),and this other one of the First Vision, but I had no idea of thevast scope of his other work. The opening chapter contains aten-page biography, detailing his artistic education andaccomplishments. The main section is next and containsphotographs of each piece featured, with text describing thework (or in some cases the event the work portrays), andsometimes its history. Included in detail are photographs ofall four sides of the Hawaii Temple, each of which features afrieze sculpted by Bro. Fairbanks. The friezes portray eventsfrom each of the four standard works. He also designed thebaptismal font for this temple.
Much of his work is very familiar. There are works known tomany Latter-day Saints who have traveled to famous LDShistorical sites: the Monument to the Three Witnesses on TempleSquare, the sculpture of the Restoration of the AaronicPriesthood (on Temple Square; a second memorial, in bold relief,stands on location on the banks of the Susquehanna River),several monuments and reliefs at Winter Quarters, the ReliefSociety Centennial Memorial, and the list goes on. As I turnedthe pages looking at the photographs of his work, I saw therewas much more that I was familiar with already-I just neverrealized he was the artist behind these famous works.
There is a final section containing letters that Avard Fairbankswrote to his family while away, and some of his philosophyconcerning art and religion, and the mission of his art. Thereis also a selection of some of the art produced by his students,and some sketches of projects he simply did not live long enoughto complete (he died at age 90 with tools and clay in hishands!). Also featured in the back is a series of his worksportraying events in the life of Christ, along with a letter hewrote his family while visiting Jerusalem.
This is definitely a very nice "coffee-table book" to haveon-hand, and worth a look into on your next trip to thebookstore. If his work is to your liking, as it is to mine,then it is well worth buying. The text is also fairlywell-written, interesting, and contains a positive inspirationaltheme that goes along with the works portrayed. (Meaning, it isnot boring to read.) I will admit however, that I didn't readevery word cover-to-cover, because some of the text covers basicChurch history (such as the story of the First Vision) which Iam already quite familiar with. The only distracting thing Ifound was that some of the pages are printed with a horizontalorientation rather than vertical (i.e., you have to turn thebook in your hands to read the "sideways" text), but this isgenerally due to the need for a "long" photograph to fit on thepage. A few of these pages, though, I thought could have beenmade to fit the standard orientation with a little more effort. But that's a very small point to make. It is otherwise awell-put together and logically organized book of this man'slife work. Even though written by his own son, this still musthave been a massive project to undertake. This is the secondedition also. It was first printed in 1972, long before hisfather's death on New Year's Day, 1987, and so has been revisedto include the sculpture and projects of those remaining fifteenyears.
I hope you will go out and at least have a look at this book. You might be surprised, as I was, at many of the works yourecognize!
------ Linda Adams firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/8776
© 1998 Linda Adams < email@example.com >