Winners of the 2019 Art Scholarship: Esther Candari

Last year, Exponent started an annual art scholarship for Mormon women of color. The goal of the scholarship continues to be to amplify the voices of LDS women artists of color by lending needed support for them to be able to continue to develop their art.

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing the work and words of some of the recipients of that scholarship. These extraordinary women have the ability to seismically change the artistic language of the Church: imagine Come Follow Me manuals, Church members’ homes or Church building hallways full of their work. We’re grateful that they shared it with this community and look forward to announcing this year’s scholarship very soon. If you’d like to contribute to the fund for this year’s scholarship, please contact exponentiieditor AT gmail DOT com.

Esther Candari: I was born and raised in the beautiful and diverse state of Hawai’i. My father is a first generation immigrant of Filipino Chinese heritage and my mother is what we in Hawaii call an inside out coconut. Though my heritage is Asian-American, the culture of my upbringing is very Polynesian which has deeply influenced my worldview and resultantly my art. 

My professional artistic education began in 2012 at BYU-Hawaii, which further strengthened my Polynesian ties, and where I went on to graduate with a BFA in painting and sculpture in 2017. Since then I have studied at the New York Academy of Art and now Liberty University where I am currently completing my MFA. My ultimate goal with my education is to gain the tools to be able to practice professionally as an artist but to also serve as an educator and advocate for the arts, especially in minority and underserved communities. 

For the most part, my work focuses on combining innovative multimedia techniques with classical narrative portraiture. Common themes are the intersection of feminism and the gospel, my personal struggles with identity as a mixed race american, and advocacy for human rights issues. 

Since I began depicting religious themes in my work a few years ago I have continuously sought to decolonize the standard depictions of religious figures, especially through the use of ethnic minorities for models. One of the main goals of my career going forward is to assist in broadening the canon of work within the Church by creating work that better reflects a global membership and provides more nuanced views of scriptural and historical narratives. 

Something I have always been acutely aware of in both fine art and religious settings is the lack of nuanced and accurate representation of Polynesian culture. As my contribution to an invitational show I am part of this fall, I plan to create a piece that communicates through Hawaiian iconography the duty of an artist to illuminate others and proclaim truth.


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