November 1, 2018
Writer: Bryanna Willis

This month, until Dec. 18 the Spori Art Gallery will show an exhibit called, “Expressions of Light.”

The exhibit will feature the work of Shawn Randall. Randall is a faculty member in the BYU-Idaho Art Department.

There will be three different subjects; temples, Nativities and lamps. The art is laser cut from wood.

Finding Inspiration

Randall’s family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was 6 years old. When he was 8, they entered the temple to be sealed.

He says he has been interested with the idea of light and nothing seems to express the idea of light more than Jesus Christ. His work features pieces that reflect the Savior and each piece reflects something that has personal meaning to Randall.

There are five temples featured; the Salt Lake City Temple where his family was sealed, the Portland Oregon Temple where he received confirmation that he was supposed to marry his wife, the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple because while going to Ricks College he would go to that temple to find answers and direction in his life. The Bountiful Utah Temple where he and his wife where sealed and the Rexburg Idaho Temple is the temple his two oldest children went to.

He says he collects Nativities because he is fascinated with how the world tells the same story so differently.

“It is such a unifying story, the birth of the Savior and I just wanted to be part of the story,” Randall said.

Finding Subjects and Discovering the Laser Cutter

The piece starts out and is cut two dimensionally and then the different pieces are put together to form three dimensional objects.

Randall first started out creating Nativities when the Art Department was doing a department dinner. He sent out the invitations and thought it would be fun to include a small Nativity set.

“I got this crazy idea to do a bunch of Nativities for everybody out of wood, so I made a little mini flat-pack Nativity for every faculty member and it was a hexagon and it was flat packed with the invitation,” he said.

After making the small Nativities for fellow faculty members he thought that maybe he could make a bigger Nativity using the same idea. This will be featured in the art show.

He first started creating art using the laser cutter when he studied art at The Art Center.

“I just kind of fell in love with what you could do,” Randall said. “I was really fascinated with how you could focus light and vaporize material.”

The laser cutter will vaporize material as wide as a human hair. Randall then thought about what potential the machine could have.

“I was fascinated with those simple parameters what you could accomplish,” Randall said.

It took him about a year-and-a-half to finish all the work that will be on display in the gallery.

Creating Art

How long it takes to finish a piece depends on how large it is.

The first step involves him drafting the design by hand and then in the computer program Adobe Illustrator, which takes about one to two weeks, and then a day to cut, then a day to finish. It will then take another day to glue it all together and then a day to dry.

He doesn’t use any stains on the pieces to show the raw beauty of the piece.

It takes some trial and error to cut and put the pieces together.

“Sometimes it doesn’t work and you have to throw it away and you cry because it’s a nice piece of wood,” Randall said. “You just start over and make it work.”

Take Aways from the Exhibit

Randall says he hopes people will use the time viewing his art to reflect on their personal connection with both nature, the Savior and the piece itself.

“To me it’s an interplay between those things,” Randall said. “The detail is my way of trying to help people look more closely and pay more attention; have an experience try and internalize or personalize something.”

His pieces are actually all pretty small, which is on purpose.

“Because it’s small you have to get close, and I like that idea that you have to bring the Savior close you have to experience him close,” Randall said. “You can’t experience him from afar.”