The two Mormon missionaries in artist Brook Robertson’s piece “Zion / Rocky Mountain Alliance” look determined. The figures are both wearing crisp white shirts and ties, resolutely staring forward as their vehicle heads towards it destination.
Such a statue normally wouldn’t be out of place in Salt Lake City — the worldwide headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Except for the fact that the vessel is a spaceship. And one of the missionaries has the bright blue skin of a sharply-dressed alien.
The temporary installation is part of Salt Lake’s “Flying Objects” series, funded by the city’s redevelopment agency and managed by its Arts Council. It is currently on display at a prominent intersection downtown, according to Karen Krieger, the Arts Council’s executive director.
“The intent was to be fun and whimsical,” Krieger told HuffPost. “We were looking for colorful pieces that would activate the streetscape.”
Although the piece was vetted by the citizen review board and a number of other city organizations, at least one member of the community isn’t happy about the artist’s work.
Nathan Zaugg, an LDS member, found the piece “deeply offensive” because it suggests that Mormons come from an alien culture. He told The Huffington Post that he’s filed a complaint with the city and is hoping the piece will be removed soon.
We have many tourists come to our city knowing of it’s history as a Mormon pioneer settlement. Many are still confused about some of the beliefs of the LDS religion. Some even confuse Latter-Day Saints with other religions like Heavens Gate, Branch Davidians, Scientology, or others. I find it in extremely poor taste that this piece would be commissioned or displayed.
Krieger, on the other hand, took the complaint as proof that the artwork had completed its mission.
“That’s the role of public art,” says Krieger. “To bring alive conversation in communities. Everybody interprets pieces differently.”
The project is still slated to remain in the intersection until the summer of 2016.