A new exhibition comprised of sculpture, etchings, drawings, oil paintings, and watercolors—all by a sole artist—is opening this week at the MOA. In the Arena: The Art of Mahonri Young celebrates this versatile, prolific, Salt Lake City-born artist who rose to become a widely-acclaimed artist and one of the most renowned American sculptors of his day.
Mahonri Young’s artistic training began in Salt Lake City, and from there he worked to fund his training in New York City (1899) and Paris (1901-1905). Young created some of the most prominent monuments in Utah, including This is the Place Monument at Heritage Park and the Seagull Monument on Temple Square.
A product of the hardworking, practical settlers of the West, Mahonri Young (1877-1957) believed in work. Throughout his career, Young celebrated the everyday man and woman engaged in the arena of life—people building, digging, planting, harvesting, competing, winning, losing, fighting. As an art student, he tired of sketching posed models in a classroom, preferring instead to wander the street drawing the people he saw engaging in everyday tasks. Among his most famous works are his sculptures of boxing matches, which famed American boxer Jack Dempsey declared to be “the most realistic fight scenes he had ever seen.”
Despite his national reputation, Mahonri always considered Utah his home. In fact, his western roots and heritage as the grandson of notable religious and civic leader Brigham Young remained part of his identity throughout his life. Mahonri celebrated the self-reliance, independent spirit, and tenacity of settlers and often reflected on the beauty of the mountains and deserts of his home state.
In the Arena: The Art of Mahonri Young will be on display at the BYU Museum of Art from May 17 – September 21, 2019.