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James Ito: Prophets, Seers, & Cubists

A collection of pencil on paper portraits of LDS prophets, inspired and molded by the rich tradition of cubism.

October 08, 2022 - November 02, 2022

In 2006, I was on my mission in New York City. On my first P-day I walked through the doors ofthe Metropolitan Museum of Art with intent to love everything in there. Once I was in thegalleries, I was transported to a world that I never knew existed consisting of knights in armor,sculptures by Rodin, and Pablo Picasso Cubist portraits from when he was a young adult livingin Paris. All of the faces and bodies were manipulated to look like the image of someone insidea shattered mirror. They were colorful and vibrating with movement.

After my visit to the MET, the wheels in my head started turning. How would the lastdispensation of prophets, seers and revelators look if they were portrayed in cubist form? Wouldthe general church-going public be able to recognize them? Would our perception of themchange at all? It was a long process, but through the last fifteen years of making a family andgrowing my career, I have been drawing these ideas onto paper.

There have been seventeen presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Wehave never seen images of these brethren other than in photographs and realistic paintings.What I wanted to do with their portraits was take the most distinct elements of their bodies andfaces, and distort them in the Cubist method as I saw in the Met years before. This way, we cantruly understand how to notice someone by the shapes of their faces and how simple they reallylook. Their appearances may be distorted, but if we truly know someone, we will recognizethem.

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