Against the Sky

Artist: Robert Reid
Against the Sky, a painting

Robert Reid (1863-1929), Against the Sky, 1911, oil on canvas, 32 1/2 x 26 1/8 inches, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Donald W. Walls.

Commentary by Lynda Palma
Museum of Art Educator

Robert Reid’s work has been a friend of mine for over twenty years. In its broadest context, the patriot in me sees the personification of America, herself—just on the cusp of greatness. Divided in civil war just a few years earlier, she has survived its devastations and looks confidently toward a promising future. In her youthful optimism, however, America has no idea what difficulties lie ahead with two world wars and a demoralizing depression.

On a personal level, I see myself in 1979, arriving at BYU to pursue graduate studies as a new convert to the LDS Church. Shoulders squared, hand on hip, dressed in my new wardrobe of modest attire, this Detroit-born-and-bred, street-wise, cosmopolitan woman is embarking upon an exciting new chapter of life. With exaggerated hubris, I see my shining future—one of lofty intellectual pursuits and significant personal accomplishment. From a spiritual standpoint, I plan on putting “Mormonism” to the test, to see if this is ultimately the life for me.

Today, I laugh at my youthful naiveté. What actually transpired was that “Mormonism” put me to the test. In retrospect, I see that behind Reid’s brilliant blue sky with wispy clouds are actually gathering storms with fierce winds and torrential rains. The delicate strands of this charming woman’s hair will soon fall into her eyes, and the proud shoulders will slump in defeat. Desperate arms will hang low, and the crisp red bow will begin to droop. Downcast eyes will, at times, fail to see the potential light ahead.

But wait! I also recognize my 2013 self in this lovely woman poised elegantly Against the Sky. My mind’s eye envisions a few crow’s feet, laugh lines, and wisps of gray around the temples; and unfortunately, the tiny red belt has expanded a few notches. I also detect a new brand of confidence that has emerged in this tempered soul—not the kind the world cares for, however, but the kind that God loves.

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