Maddison Colvin is an innovative artist with degrees from Whitworth University and BYU. Her series Typologies looks at religious architecture. She was profiled previously on The Krakens for her series Swarms. Colvin lives in Oregon.
You said art is ‘an ideal medium in which to explore the relationship between personal (phenomenological) and scientific (empirical/ontological) learning’. How do you approach teaching your students at BYU? One of the challenges of BYU is the balancing act of fostering both an environment of active critical thinking and a space for the strengthening of faith. At least, it can often look like a balancing act. “Strengthening of faith” does not have to mean “never having your faith questioned”. If it did, we’d either have to avoid faith or avoid criticism in our classes. If you want to be both a faithful Mormon and a smart, critical artist, you have to work out the relationship between the two somewhere along the way. Nowhere’s going to be safer for that than BYU. Therefore, I take a fairly critical approach while still trying to stay sensitive to the personal faith of the students. I buy into their motivations (why are you making this? what drives the work?) and push them to form those motivations into the most honest, well-realized work they can make. The hope is that I never ask them to change who they are as artists, and my teaching only changes how effectively their work realizes that core identity. This, I think, is the key- faith is not dumb or safe. It can be expressed in challenging, critical forms, and I hope that more Mormon artists are and will continue to do that.
What are you working on next? Well, I’ve designed and 3D printed 24 utopian temples to kind of imitate or elaborate on the Plat of Zion, I’ve painted three stake centers designed on the same model and located in the same township on top of each other, and I’ve started those jungle paintings. I think both of those directions- utopianism and the wild overgrown spaces- will continue in my work for a while. I’m also moving to Oregon soon, which I think will definitely inform future projects.