Category: Sculpture

Janis Mars Wunderlich: Ceramics


Janis Mars Wunderlich is a contemporary ceramic master. She was born in Akron, Ohio and received her BFA from Brigham Young University and an MFA from The Ohio State University. She teaches Ceramics and Design at Ashland University. Wunderlich will spend this summer in Dresden, Germany on a residency studying modern and historic techniques of porcelain figurine manufacturing at the Meissen Factory in Meissen, Germany. She is also a Boston-qualifying marathon runner. She was profiled in a documentary Who Does She Think She Is? and The New York Times said of her, “Janis Wunderlich, on the other hand, seems cheerfully adept at managing five children, a husband and a successful career as a sculptor.” Wunderlich lives in Ohio.

JMW3Janis1 JMW51890504_206572726200303_1871758340663459878_oJanis2JMW2

How would you describe your art and your style? My last name ‘Wunderlich’ in German means wonderful in a rare, strange, or odd way. This is how I describe my art; I am trying to capture the beauty, joy, and corresponding strangeness and difficulties of everyday life. I find so many contrasts and dichotomies in family relationships and the seemingly insignificant events of daily living… Just like God tells us: Giving us the bitter so we can recognize the sweet. I am trying to share my very personal narrative in a way that will resonate on a universal level.

You grew up and live in Ohio. I grew up across the river in Kentucky. How has this Midwest upbringing shaped your art? How did it shape your faith? We were the only Mormons in our community. My brothers and I were the only Mormons at school. We were known as THE Mormon Family. We were an anomaly, oddballs… mysterious and in a category all to ourselves. I grew up accustomed to the notion of being completely different from everyone else. I think my eccentric, individual artistic style grew from this upbringing.

You once said, “Being a mother is a deep part of why I have joy.” Explain. I married and began a family when I was very young. This movement from being a child into become a mother happened so quickly and had a huge impact on my identity. Nurturing children became my duty, but more importantly, my entire purpose; providing an indescribable sense of joy. It built me up and exhausted me at the same time (see what I mean about contrasts?!). Now, as my children are growing up and becoming independent, I find my transitioning roles more fluid and mysterious, and I am forced to look deeply into myself to redefine who I am.

Visit Janis Mars Wunderlich’s website.

Follow Janis Mars Wunderlich on Instagram.


Angel Moroni: Legacy of Sculpture


Guest Post: Brian Olson

Cyrus Dallin’s creation of the iconic Angel Moroni statue for the Salt Lake Temple did not begin the practice of placing a statue on every temple. Five temples would be built and dedicated as well as sixty-two and a half years would pass before another Angel Moroni Statue would be placed on a temple. This second statue, while keeping the horn and the upright position of Dallin’s Statue, would be as distinct from the Salt Lake Statue as that statue was from the Nauvoo weathervane. As construction commenced on the Los Angeles California Temple in 1951, Millard F. Malin was contacted by the Church about creating a new statue to go atop the new temple in a prominent California neighborhood.

Creating the Second Angel Moroni

Millard F Malin (1891-1975) studied sculpture at the National Academy of Design in New York City, chiefly under Herman MacNeil. Prior to that, he was a medical student at the University of Utah from 1914 to 1915 studying human anatomy. While a student in New York, Malin was hired by Gutzon Borglum to assist in sculpting the Confederate Memorial Carving at Stone Mountain in Georgia. Gutzon, who is best known for carving Mount Rushmore, was born in Idaho to LDS parents who soon after left the Church and moved to the Midwest. Malin opened his own art studio in the mid 1920’s in Salt Lake with the assistance of his closest friend, Edward O. Anderson. Anderson eventually became the chief architect for the Church and would call on Millard Malin to create the Baptismal Font Oxen and additional sculptures for the London England, Bern Switzerland, and Hamilton New Zealand Temples.

Malin’s Moroni, Angel in the City of Angels


Designed specifically for the Los Angeles California Temple, Malin’s Angel (above) has not been used anywhere else. This Moroni was, according to the sculptor, heavily influenced by the Book of Mormon paintings of Arnold Freiberg, especially in regards to clothing and muscle tone. Besides the clothing, often described as Mayan in style, this statue has two other features not used on any other Moroni Temple statue to date. First is the manner that the right hand holds the trumpet, with the palm upturned and the trumpet resting in the hand. All other versions of the statue currently in use have the left hand palm down with a firm grip on the trumpet. Also, unlike all the other versions of the statue which feature bare feet, this statue wears sandals. This is also the first of two statues to be created for use on top of temples where the statue is holding gold plates in the crook of his left arm.

The Third Statue

The Los Angeles Temple Moroni was still not the start of the tradition of angels on the temples. The third temple to have an angel statue was the large new temple built in the U.S. Capital, Washington D.C. In the 18 years between the Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Temple dedications, the Church returned to the practice of building temples without statues. Five temples would be built and dedicated without an angel statue atop them. For this new temple, the Church would contact multiple artists to invite them to submit designs for a new statue to go atop the temple. Of the eight submissions the church received, they would choose the design of Avard Fairbanks.

Avard T. Fairbanks (1897-1987) was born in Provo, Utah to John B. Fairbanks, an artist famous for having painted murals in some of the early temples and a professor of art at the Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Avard T. Fairbanks comes from a family of artists. His brother, J. Leo Fairbanks was an artist like their father. Fairbanks’ son, Jonathan Leo Fairbanks is a sculptor in his own right and was curator of the Boston Museum of Fine arts in the early 90’s. Fairbanks’ nephew Ortho Fairbanks was also a prolific sculptor, creating many works as well. Fairbanks was a lifelong student and teacher. He studied sculpture at the Art Students League of New York, at the National School of Fine Arts under Jean Antoine Injalbert in Paris, and the Guggenheim Fellowship in Italy. He earned a degree from Yale University, a master’s degree from the University of Washington, and a Ph.D. in anatomy from the University of Michigan. He was an Assistant Professor at the University of Oregon, a teacher at the Seattle Institute of Art, an Associate Professor of Sculpture at the University of Michigan, and was the first Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah. Fairbanks sculpted the friezes around the crown of the Laie Hawaii Temple, some of the sculptures on the temple grounds, and the oxen for the baptistry font. He also sculpted many works for Temple Square including busts of some of the prophets, the Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood monument, the Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood Monument, and the Three Witnesses Monument .

Fairbanks’s Moroni, An Ensign to the Nations


A new statue, a new style. Avard T. Fairbanks’s Angel Moroni is the only temple statue that has the trumpet pointing the same direction as the feet. All other statues have the trumpet and head turned at a right angle to the chest and feet. Like Malin’s Moroni, this angel holds a reproduction of the gold plates that the Book of Mormon was translated from nestled in the crook of his left arm. The robes on Fairbanks’ Moroni are long–longer than on any other Moroni. They cover part of the feet, well below the ankles. Most Moroni Statues have the robes end about or above the ankles. Originally, this was just an 18-foot statue (from feet to crown) for the Washington D.C. Temple. Later, three 15-foot versions were made to be used on other temples. The Washington D.C. statue is still the tallest Angel Moroni when measured from feet to crown.

The Fourth Moroni

Four temples would be built and dedicated in the time between the first use of the Fairbanks Statue until the first use of the fourth. Of those four temples, two used replicas of Fairbanks’ statue. By this point, there had been 20 temples built and dedicated. And of those 20, only a quarter of them had Angel Moroni statues. With the dedication of the Atlanta Temple in 1983 the statue came into regular use. And by regular use, I mean that 127 temples have been built and dedicated since then, and of those 127, only two did not receive a Moroni. Those two were both designed to have a statue, but due to legal issues, would wait to receive their statue until just short of one year after the dedication.

Additionally, since the construction of the Atlanta Temple, statues have been added to seven of the 15 original statue-less temples. In the foreseeable future, this trend will continue. As of writing, there are an additional 13 temples under construction, and two temples for which the Church has released the design. All of these 15 temples but one has been designed with an Angel Moroni statue. That one exception is the Paris France Temple, where a design choice is being considered to have neither spire nor angel. This would break a tradition running 30 years and including over 130 temples.

Torleif S Knaphus (1881-1965) studied under Harriet Backer at her Oslo school, under Lats Utne at the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry, at the Académie Julian in Paris, and the Art Students League in New York.

His other works for the Church include assisting Avard T. Fairbanks with the oxen and sculptures at Laie Temple. He sculpted both the oxen in the Cardston Alberta Temple baptistery as well as a frieze titled Christ the Fountainhead. It stood outside the temple and was later moved inside the temple waiting room during a remodel and expansion. Copies of the frieze can be found in the waiting room at the Provo Utah Temple, on the exterior of the Edgehill Ward meetinghouse in Sugarhouse Utah, and various LDS chapels throughout the world. He carved the oxen for the baptismal font at the Mesa Arizona Temple as well as the eight terracotta friezes that run around the outside of the upper portion of the temple. He sculpted the oxen for the baptismal font at the Idaho Falls Temple and assisted with the oxen for the font of the Oakland Temple and the Moroni statue at the Los Angeles Temple.


The work that Torleif is most famous for is the Hill Cumorah Monument (above), which was proposed by and entirely designed by Torlief Knaphus due to his great love for the restoration of the Gospel through the Angel Moroni.

Knaphus Moroni

Torlief Knaphus was asked to create a replica of the Dallin Moroni for use on the Washington D.C. Chapel in 1930. The statue is a foot shorter than Dallin’s original, and in regards to it, Knaphus said that while it looks the same from a distance the arms and shoulders are ‘beefier’ than the original. The statue was removed from the chapel in the 1970’s. A few years later an artist named LaVar Wallgren would recast the statue in fiberglass to be used on the Idaho Falls temple and a second recast to be used on the Atlanta Temple. The Idaho Falls statue remains, but the Atlanta Statue was removed, replaced with another model, then refurbished. It now sits on the Boston Temple. This Boston Statue, a recreation of the Dallin Statue, is on the temple closest to the Massachusetts home where Dallin lived for most of his life.

The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Moroni’s

While the Moroni tradition started mostly with the fourth statue, it was these later statues that made it possible.

Karl Quilter (1929-2013) studied art and industrial design at the University of Utah and was mentored by Avard T. Fairbanks, sculptor of the third version of the Angel Moroni. While there, he and LaVar Wallgren experimented with casting sculptures in fiberglass instead of the more traditional metal. The effort was noticed by the Church, which would lead to the Church commissioning two statues for temples in the late 1970’s and eventually a third in the late 1990’s. Karl Quilter’s statues were lighter, easier to transport to locations around the globe, cost less to make, and could be lifted into place by smaller cranes or even helicopters. Additionally, they did not require the heavy structural reinforcement earlier statues required due to being cast from metals. This allowed for statues to be placed on smaller temples and narrower spires, including temples that had not been originally designed to have the statue. Later in life, Quilter would serve another mission for the Church, during which he sculpted the nativity scenes that are now seen on many temple grounds during the holiday season. Quilter’s three statues are often mistaken for one statue, or at best, three different sizes of one statue. But each statue is different with a unique pose. Here are the features of each statue that are unique.

Quilter’s 1982 Moroni. The quickest way to identify the first statue is to look at it from the front (below left). The hem of the robe on this statue is windswept and blows out and away from the feet to the viewer’s left. The statue’s left hand is held away from the body at a greater angle than the other two Quilter statues. The left wrist is bent down slightly. The robe on the left sleeve is smoother, devoid of defined wrinkles, and the cuff hangs round and loose on that arm. The left leg comes straight down from the waist and bends back at the knee, projecting forward slightly in front of the chest. Seen from the side, the left arm is bent forward at the elbow. The left hand is clenched in a fist. Close up, the right hand the fingers holding the trumpet are spaced apart, except the thumb which overlaps the pointer finger and touches the middle finger. This statue is 7 feet in height, foot to crown.

Quilter’s 1985 Moroni. Quilter’s second statue is 10’6″ feet tall (below middle). When viewed from the front, the hem of the robe hangs straight down from the waist, not being blown to either side. The left arm is closer to the body. The wrist on the left arm has no bend to it. The left hand is clenched in a fist in this statue as well. The left leg bends forward at the knee like the previous statue, but also bends slightly to the outside, emphasizing the left ankle being behind the right foot. When viewed from the side, there is no bend in the elbow. The cuff is tightly windswept and blown out behind the arm. On close inspection of the right hand, the fingers touch together and the thumb touches the side of the pointer finger without overlapping it.

Quilter’s 1997 Moroni. Standing at just 6’10” tall, this third statue of Quilter’s was sculpted primarily for the Nauvoo Temple (below right). The truly unique feature of this statue is the left hand. It falls down at the statue’s side like the two preceding statues, but unlike any other Moroni in use, the hand is relaxed and open. Another identifying feature of this statue is the robes. They have a heavier, more layered look, and appear far more disorderly and windswept than Quilter’s previous statues.


The Eighth Moroni

LaVar Wallgren (1932-2004), though not classically trained as an artist or sculptor, was asked to come up with a life-size Angel Moroni for the smaller temples, one that would be smaller than the other molds already in use. He knew upon being asked that it would have a scroll, like the angel mentioned in Revelation 14:6-7. He sketched then sculpted the new statue, which was approved by the First Presidency. The new statue was 5’ 11” with the face of a much younger man than the other statues. Originally intended to be white rather than gold leafed, the only white statue placed on the Monticello Utah Temple proved to be too difficult to see against the clouds. The Monticello Temple statue was then replaced with the 7 foot Quilter Statue. The subsequent statues were given gold leaf before being placed on temples. As a highly skilled craftsman who specialized in the casting of fiberglass, a skill he learned with Karl Quilter, Wallgren cast all of the Karl Quilter Angel Moroni statues in his Kearns, Utah studio.

Wallgren Moroni


The Wallgren Moroni was designed specifically to use on the smaller temples and stands at 5’ 11 inches tall. It has two features that make it very unique. First and most obvious is the scroll the statue holds in its left hand. The second identifying feature is that the Moroni Wallgren created is far younger than any other Moroni statue. The face is clearly that of a younger more youthful prophet, rather than an older and wiser one.

This month we are featuring a four-part series on the Angel Moroni sculptures atop most of the Mormon temples around the world. These guest posts come from Brian Olson who has spent more than 10,000 hours modeling, digitizing, and photographing Mormon temples. His free PDF entitled Know Your Moroni can be found at  Part One profiled Creating an Icon, Part Two profiled Sculpting Angel Moroni, and Part Four will look at Rendering Angel Moroni.

Images courtesy and Brian Olson.

Cyrus Dallin: Sculpting Angel Moroni


Guest Post: Brian Olson

Cyrus Dallin was a famous American sculptor known for his Native American pieces and the first Angel Moroni sculpture atop a Mormon temple. His more than 260 works include the equestrian statue of Paul Revere in Boston, Massachusetts and the Appeal to the Great Spirit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Dallin was born in Utah and more than 30 pieces of his work can be found at the Springville Museum of Art.


Cyrus Dallin’s grandparents had moved to Utah after joining the Mormon Church. His parents had settled in the small Utah town of Springville, near where Dallin’s father mined, and had raised their family Presbyterian. Dallin grew up associating with the children in local American Indian tribes, and first attempted sculpture by making busts of the local Indian leaders and chiefs out of river clay. However, it was in his father’s mine that Dallin’s skills gained him recognition. A vein of white clay was discovered in the mine, and from it Dallin sculpted busts of a man and a woman. These busts were noticed by a visitor from Boston, C. H. Blanchard; it was he who encouraged Cyrus to formally study sculpture.

In 1890 at the age of 21, Dallin was asked to sculpt a statue for the temple. He had by this point spent years studying sculpture in Boston and Paris and had gained international recognition for his sculptures of Native Americans. Dallin was already commissioned to create the Monument to Brigham Young that currently stands at the south end of the Temple Square Plaza when President Woodruff asked him to do the Angel for the temple as well.

Cyrus’s most famous work is a series of four sculptures known as The Epic of the Indian. Together the four pieces, A Signal of Peace, or “the welcome” (1890); The Medicine Man, or “the warning” (1899); The Protest, or “the defiance” (1904); and Appeal to the Great Spirit (1909) tell a story of the struggle of the American Indian to co-exist with those who moved into their lands.

Sculpture was not the only interest Cyrus Dallin had. He had a great fondness for archery that led him to compete in the sport, eventually earning him a Bronze Medal in the 1914 Olympics in St. Louis Missouri for team archery.

Dallin would choose to become a Unitarian, but said of the experience of creating the Statue for the Salt Lake Temple “I consider that my ‘angel Moroni’ brought me nearer to God than anything I ever did. It seemed to me that I came to know what it means to commune with angels from heaven.”


This month we are featuring a four-part series on the Angel Moroni sculptures atop most of the Mormon temples around the world. These guest posts come from Brian Olson who has spent more than 10,000 hours modeling, digitizing, and photographing Mormon temples. His free PDF entitled Know Your Moroni can be found at  Part One profiled Creating an Icon, Part Three will profile the Legacy of Sculpture, and Part Four will look at Rendering Angel Moroni.

All images courtesy Brian Olson.

Angel Moroni: Creating an Icon


Guest Post: Brian Olson

Easily recognizable to a worldwide audience, a neo-classical statue with a trumpet stands atop the tallest spire of one of the oldest structures in Salt Lake City, Utah. This Angel Moroni Statue and its various versions instantly denote a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The now familiar icon was not the first form of ornamentation for the spires of Mormon temples; it would be many years before it would become a cherished and almost essential part of the temple standard.

The first temple of the Church was dedicated in 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio. The temple was three stories and covered in sparkling white stucco. On top of the tower stood, not a statue, but a weathervane (below). At the time, weathervanes were often placed on the tallest buildings in a community, churches, and civic buildings alike, and were of great use to communities whose industries were often dependent upon the weather for survival.


For the first few temples built, weathervanes, not statues, were the norm. The Nauvoo Temple would be given a 3-dimensional figure made of tin and gilded in gold (shown at top). It was fashioned in the likeness of a man, holding a book raised in one hand and a trumpet to his lips in the other, laying horizontal as if flying. It was a representation of the angel described in the verse in Revelation 14:6 “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”

After the Mormon Church’s move to Utah, the first temples built in their new home would also have weathervanes. The Saint George temple had a weathervane on its original short tower and on its newer taller tower as well (below left). The Logan Temple was built with two weathervanes, one each on its twin east and west towers (below right). So common was the practice of weathervanes that it was not until the fifth temple was built in Manti, Utah that the Saints would break with the tradition by having neither weathervane nor statue. Weathervanes were even considered for the Salt Lake Temple. Some of the early drawings depicting what the Salt Lake Temple would look like feature the Nauvoo weathervane on both the east and west center towers.


However, fashions change. So it was that President Wilford Woodruff approached Cyrus Dallin with a commission, not for the weathervanes, but a single standing statue more in the modern style. Initially, Dallin declined the commission for the statue, saying he did not believe in angels. President Woodruff persisted and asked Cyrus to consult with his mother about taking the project. Upon telling his mother that he did not wish to take the commission and his reason why, she replied “Why do you say that? You call me your ‘angel mother.’ ” Dallin accepted the commission, and it was Dallin himself who chose Moroni for the subject and inspiration of the angel (below).


While it was Dallin’s statue that firmly linked the angel icon with the prophet Moroni in the minds of the members of the church, it was not the start of the tradition of an angel on nearly every temple. In fact, another six temples would be built and another 62 years would pass before another Angel Moroni statue would be placed on a temple.

This month we are featuring a four-part series on the Angel Moroni sculptures atop most of the Mormon temples around the world. These guest posts come from Brian Olson who has spent more than 10,000 hours modeling, digitizing, and photographing Mormon temples. His free PDF entitled Know Your Moroni can be found at Part Two will profile Sculpting Angel Moroni, Part Three will profile the Legacy of Sculpture, and Part Four will look at Rendering Angel Moroni.

Download the free PDF entitled Know Your Moroni.

Visit Brian Olson’s YouTube page.

Images courtesy and Brian Olson.

Nnamdi Okonkwo: Introspection and Contemplation


Nnamdi Okonkwo is a talented Nigerian sculptor who lives in Georgia by way of Hawaii. Okonkwo says of his style, “The forms in my sculpture are simplified and stylized to better express my thoughts and ideas which are embodied in fluid lines and simple shapes. It is a mode of expression that comes naturally to me, and it is straight to the point and devoid of pretension. Stylization also offers a greater avenue for the expression of universal themes and emotions. This allows me to broaden the scope of expression by transcending mere literal representation of the figure, provoking different thoughts and ideas, and giving the viewer an opportunity for introspection and contemplation. “Nnamdi11Nnamdi5Nnamdi4

Describe the evolution of your commercial success. In 2004, my wife and I decided that she should quit her job and I would try to be the sole breadwinner of our home. We had just gotten back from Europe with our first child who was then two years of age, and had literally spent every penny we had on that trip. She was working as a CPA, and I was a stay at home dad. I had a home studio and I would try to work on my art as much as I could in between taking care of the baby, while she was at work. But we could see that this arrangement was working against our natural I instincts, and to the detriment of our family. She would rather stay home with the baby but was at work, and I would rather be at work but was home with the baby! Although we were fully aware that what we felt was right for us was also in alignment with the teachings of the gospel, it was quite scary for us to give up the security of her job.

However, I knew we had to take that leap of faith, believing that if we do our best that God will do the rest for us. It was time to put the things we thought we believed to the test! I’ve always felt a calling to be an artist. Even though there had been quite a few people who tried to talk some ‘good sense’ into me, I never wavered because of the strength of my conviction. I knew where my talent came from and believed that it was meant to be used and not hidden away. Only a sadistic and irresponsible being, and I reasoned that God was not any of those things, would give me a useless gift. How and why would He not want to help me to use that talent to make a living?

The decision was made. My wife resigned from her job. Because she was a great worker, her employers did everything in their power to tempt her to stay, and to her credit, she never wavered. We have never looked back since. I now not just believe but know that all those things, which I believed, are indeed true. I have also come to learn that money is the easy part with God. What is difficult for Him is getting us to see that, and then getting us to not worry about money, but rather to preoccupy ourselves with finding out what He needs us to do for Him, and then to do it. I’ve also learned that hard work, coupled with passion, confidence, goodness, honesty and integrity, are magnetic to success.

My definition of hard work has also evolved over the years. I have found out that pushing so hard does not necessarily get you where you want to be any sooner than the right time, for although hard work is necessary,  it is not by hard work alone that we succeed. One of the greatest lessons I feel I have learned is that one is at his best when God is working in and through him or her. So I remind myself that the goal is not only to work hard, but it is also to make sure that I live my life in alignment with Him.

Visit Nnamdi Okonkwo’s website.