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Highlights from Artist Panel at the BYU MOA

Guest Post by Megan Mayfield, MOA Marketing Intern

Guest Post by Megan Mayfield, MOA Marketing Intern On February 22, 2018, museum patrons were invited to join the BYU MOA for an Artist Panel featuring artists from

The Interpretation Thereof: Contemporary LDS Art and Scripture

. The panel included artists Laura Erikson Atkinson, David Habben, J. Kirk Richards, and Nick Stephens. The panel was moderated by MOA curator, Ashlee Whitaker. The artists answered questions about their inspirations, influences, preparatory work, how they overcome creative blocks, ideas for future works, and the rewards of creating art.


For Laura Erikson Atkinson, inspiration comes from her everyday experiences of being a mother, as well as her love of conceptual and contemporary art. She noted that her best inspiration comes from the mundane. David Habben, on the other hand, finds his inspiration in the weird things he sees around him. Habben said that everything feeds into a melting pot in his brain, that is then transformed when he creates new pieces. J. Kirk Richards finds his inspiration in the scriptures and the poetry of the words and how the words of the scriptures make him feel. Nick Stephens, like Atkinson, also finds his inspiration in everyday experiences and emotions.

Artistic Influences

When it came to the influences of their art, all four artists had different views. Laura Erikson Atkinson grew up loving the Impressionist movement and the play between light and texture, which have a large influence on her work now. She worked for a time at the Hirshhorn Museum in DC and there found a love of Contemporary Art, which was very influential as she developed her own style. Atkinson also loves Found-Object art, another obvious influence of her work. Habben, who primarily works with ink, was influenced by illustrators such as Shel Silverstein, and the distinct ink and line drawing style. J. Kirk Richards related his work to Gustav Klimt’s University paintings. Nick Stephens's artistic influences come from any artist who develops patterns as well as modern art.

Worship and Art

All four artists expressed a reliance on prayer and a belief that the art they make is essential. Each artist had a different relationship with beginning new projects and that tie-in with prayer. J. Kirk Richards expressed that making art is a big part of how he worships. For David Habben, prayer is essential when he depicts themes of testimony and Laura Erikson Atkinson prays for success in depicting what she wants to express.

Overcoming Creative Blocks

All four artists agreed that in order to overcome blocks in art, they just have to keep working. They agreed that sometimes it is necessary to take a break and work on something that isn’t as important, but it is always crucial keep working on something artistic.

Rewards of Creating Art

When it came to the rewards of the artistic process, the panelists expressed their favorite parts of creating art. Laura Erikson Atkinson loves the spontaneity in her work. The end is one of the most fun parts for her because there is always an element of uncertainty of how the painting is going to look once she removes objects from the paint. David Habben loves the entire process of creating art and the act of making. J. Kirk Richards loves the beginning of starting a piece and the discovery of colors and textures. Richard also enjoys when one of his paintings finally sings to him and seeing how his work affects other people. Nick Stephens loves the process of turning a mound of sketches into a final, finished piece. The creative process for Laura Erikson Atkinson, David Habben, J. Kirk Richards, and Nick Stephens vary. However, all the artists able bear their testimony with their art and the way that they create. See their work for yourself in The Interpretation Thereof: Contemporary LDS Art and Scripture, open at the BYU Museum of Art through March 31, 2018.