Folks visiting BYU’s Museum of Art for the first time may be a bit surprised to discover a colorful exhibition dedicated to artwork celebrating the images of Hindu deities Vishnu and Krishna.
The museum, after all, is one of the familiar anchors of the Church-owned university. But regular visitors here will recognize the recently opened Hindu exhibition — dubbed “Loving Devotion” — as a continuation of several shows designed to consider one’s relationship with his or her Creator.
Past museum exhibitions, for example, have introduced collections of Islamic sacred items and Catholic depictions of the various Stations of the Cross. Even the recent Christ-themed exhibitions such as “Sacred Gift” showcased altarpieces borrowed from Protestant houses of worship in Europe.
But in each exhibition is found a universal message recognized immediately by believing Latter-day Saints — the central role that an omnipotent God plays in the lives of His followers. Art, in its many forms, is merely a vehicle used by devotees to celebrate their sacred connection to their Creator.
“Loving Devotion” is a free show that features a variety of ornate objects from the Indian subcontinent. Designers at the museum have turned a corner of a basement gallery into a slice of Bombay or Delhi — utilizing colors, furnishings and architectural elements that are distinctly Indian.
The artwork focuses on the Hindu god Vishnu and his incarnation, Krishna. The deities are the most popular recipients of loving devotion, or bhakti.
The exhibition’s title panel introduces patrons to bhakti.
“For many Hindus, bhakti — the practice of fervent, impassioned devotion to Deity — is at the heart of life’s purpose, provides a path to salvation and transforms acts of worship into joyful experiences of immense love.”
While many Latter-day Saint visitors will respond to the exhibition’s spiritual message, art lovers of all backgrounds can find much to enjoy in “Loving Devotion.” The many objects on display range from ornate ceramic temple vessels and bronze and stone sculptures to colorful watercolor paintings.
An interactive corner of the exhibition allows younger visitors to learn more about Hinduism and even perform a classical Indian dance that demonstrates the 10 manifestations of Vishnu. Patrons of all ages can also identify their own blessings on paper lotus blossoms. Lotus flowers can float atop muddy waters — even as God’s followers can realize separation from a soiled world.
“Loving Devotion” will be on display until March 21, 2015. The BYU Museum of Art is located in the northwest end of the Provo, Utah, campus.