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Department of Art

Expressing the Love of God and Thinking Celestial: A Conversation with BYU Art Alum Sabrina Squires

BYU Alumna Speaks on Creating Religious Art & Shaping the Next Generation

Sabrina Squires Working on a Nature Painting
Photo by Sabrina Squires

BYU Department of Art alum Sabrina Squires’ (’06) work is on display in LDS magazines and religious journals and critics say it stops them in their tracks. Squires’ faith is woven throughout her work whether it is focused on nature, family or scripture.

Squires speaks about her experience creating spiritual and religious art and the ways she continues to develop her talent as a long-time artist and disciple who teaches in her field.

Q: Why do you create religious art and how do you feel BYU has helped lead to your recent publications?

Squires: Going to BYU, there's always that spiritual aspect. So, of course, that was part of my development as an artist—wanting to express my religion through my art.

I started art at a very young age, two or three years old. I did a lot of observational drawing. Even that young, I loved it. I didn't take any art classes and I rarely took any formal art lessons growing up. I switched to academics in high school because I wanted to get into a good school and I knew I wanted to do art. I wanted to return to that field. BYU was the only school I applied to. I really wanted to go somewhere where my religion was part of my education because I felt like it gave [my art] an extra level.

Q: You do a lot of nature painting. Proportionately, how much of your work would you say is religious art?

Squires: I think spirituality is a focus and a drive in all my work. Some of my art is overtly religious and some is covertly religious. I have been trying to separate my work into series. I always have a body of religious work going on in my studio and that is my current focus. I received a grant from the state of Utah’s Division of Arts and Museums to work on my professional development, so I've signed up for a bunch of business and marketing classes in line with that grant. As part of that, I am going to focus on storytelling through a series of religious pieces.

Q: Can you tell me more about your “Think Celestial” series?

Squires: Yes. I am painting about celestial marriage as part of my “Think Celestial” series.

I also have a line of just nature. I guess you can separate my art into three categories. There's the overtly and covertly religious and expressing spiritual ideas through nature. I am working on a beautiful apocalypse where nature takes back over, like it's breaking down these old ruins.

Q: Can you tell me about the work you do for the Church?

Squires: I usually let the Church know if I have made something religious, and they let me know if they want to use it. I have entered contests and worked with the philanthropies department for thank you cards.

With “The Love of God,” I have had so many doors open just from how the Church promoted it.

Q: Do you teach art along with creating art?

Squires: Yes, I teach K-6 at Noah Webster Academy in Orem. This year, I received a Beverly Taylor Sorenson grant, and it led to some really interesting curricula.

They ask us to do cross-curricula teaching. I did a lesson about national parks using national parks posters. Fourth graders get state park passes, so I could do a lesson and take them to a park. I have to adapt the lesson for each grade. It is a lot of work, but it is rewarding.

The arts are of value on their own, but it is nice to feel you are helping scholars with their curricula as well. I incorporated math, reading, writing—all the different subjects. For example, you start thinking about how you can do a lesson in colored pencil while learning about underwater habitat.

Q: Did you get a teaching degree at BYU or certify to teach after your BFA?

Squires: I always knew I wanted to teach, and my friend who taught at Noah Webster helped me get a position there. I did the Alternative Route to Licensure (ARL). It meant taking classes the first three years of teaching. I took most of them at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC).

Q: Do you work on your own paintings while teaching?

Squires: I paint throughout the year. I get a lot of commissions because of the work I've done with the Church.

Q: What is your teaching philosophy?

Squires: I believe the arts should be for everyone. Sometimes people assume only those who are really good at the arts should pursue them. Whether it is music, dance, visual arts, woodworking, culinary arts—creativity is a vital part of education, no matter how you use it. Even in more left-brained fields, creativity and thinking outside the box is great for problem solving. I hope that my students are able to find their voice, use their imagination and be inspired in how to use the arts in different capacities during their lifetimes.