It’s by growing in both areas, making our skills and our spirit grow side by side, that wonderful works of art in music or literature or painting or whatever medium will be created. I try to tell my students at BYU not to compartmentalize. We cannot separate our spiritual development from our artistic development. We must work at both.
James C. Christensen is a former BYU professor and artist whose work explores myths, fables and other fantasy worlds. Christensen launched his art career with a master’s degree in art from Brigham Young University in 1968 after doing undergraduate work at Santa Monica City College and University of California, Los Angeles.
Christensen didn’t stay away from BYU for long, returning eight years later to join the faculty of the BYU Department of Visual Arts. His talents for creativity and instruction blessed students at BYU for more than 20 years until his retirement in 1997. Although he didn’t push painting onto his children, two of his daughters have followed Christensen’s footsteps toward a career in art.
Christensen is a firm believer in the power of imagination. In a landmark forum address at BYU, Christensen told students and faculty that he believes that imagination isn’t just limited to “creative types”. He said that the key to harnessing the power of imagination is blending human experience as it touches upon the six senses in “new and unique ways.” The more we experience, “the more potential for imaginative thinking we have.”
As cochairs of the Mormon Arts Foundation, Christensen and his wife work to create dialog between various types of artists in the LDS community. His passion for art is something he loves sharing with others. “My work is an invitation to let your imagination run wild, explore, and make interpretations spontaneously,” his website says. “My paints are meant to excite the imagination and invite the viewer to become a participant in the creative process.”