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N. Kraig Varner
(1949 - )
Kraig Varner was born in Havre, Montana, among the rolling northeastern Montana hills. Early memories of the land, the animals, and the people play a part in his sculptures today. The program for the dedication of his statue of Brigham Young in the Utah State Capital building states "it is the beauty of the human figure and its endless potential for expressiveness that inspire his art."
Kraig received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture from Brigham Young University. From 1979 to 1986, he apprenticed at the Wasatch Bronzeworks, leaving there in 1986 to become a full-time professional sculptor. His works are in many private and public collections, and he has exhibited in national and group shows throughout the United States. In 1991, his one-man show titled "Hu Mana" was exhibited at The Arts Center in Tucson, Arizona.
In 1993, Kraig was commissioned to do an eight-foot bronze statue of Brigham Young, which now resides in the Utah State Capitol building. The artist's feelings about this experience are expressed in the dedication ceremony program as follows:
"Brigham Young had a reputation as a man of action and indomitable will. This was impressed upon me over and over again in my research. The more I studied and tried to visualize the man, the more I realized that nothing in my sculpture of Brigham Young could be static. I wanted to portray him at his most vigorous time of life, when he became leader of the Saints and led them westward in the largest and best organized trek of pioneers in American history. "
The plaque at the base of the statue describes Brigham Young as being ". . . best known as an energetic and judicious leader."
The following brief biography of Brigham Young is from the dedication ceremony program of the Kraig Varner statue. The program credits the excerpt to the biography of Brigham Young by Albert E. Bowen.
Brigham Young was born on June 1, 1801, in Whitingham, Vermont. He died in Salt Lake City, Utah, on August 29, 1877. His family on both sides had lived in Massachusetts since the founding of New England, and they were devout Puritans. At 14 years of age, Brigham was apprenticed to learn carpentry and cabinet making. He became an expert at both but later seems to have preferred to work as a painter and glazier.
While living in New York State, he learned of the organization of a new church called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He made a personal visit to the founder, Joseph Smith, to learn about the claims of this new church. For a two-year period, Brigham carefully studied this new religion, and on April 14, 1832, he was baptized and became a member of the Church.
In 1844, Brigham Young was in Boston when he learned of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Brigham hastily left for Nauvoo, Illinois, where the majority of the church members were living, and arrived in time for a meeting where he was sustained as leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
His first priority, as President of the Church, was for the economic and spiritual stability of Nauvoo. Young is quoted by Albert E. Bowen as saying, "Not only must farms be cultivated, houses built, and mills to grind the corn, but there must be something produced by industry to send off to market in exchange for cash and for such other articles as we need."
Two years later, the persecuted "Mormon" settlers were driven from Illinois. Of the departure of the people from Nauvoo, Albert Bowen states: "The people were forced out [of Nauvoo in 1846] ill-prepared and in the dead of winter. Brigham Young was the organizing genius, the intrepid leader that piloted that great body of dispossessed, ill-equipped people for 1,000 miles through winter storms and summer suns across trackless prairies and sun-scorched plains, over mountain fastnesses, swollen rivers, and turbulent streams to a desolate waste in the Rocky Mountains. [The Salt Lake Valley] The land he conquered by irrigation; by wise statesmanship he reared a magnificent commonwealth."
Of Brigham Young himself, Bowen states: "He possessed in superlative degree qualifications that always go with greatness: intelligence, loyalty, faith, courage. It is possible to disagree with his religious belief, but it is not possible, on the record of history, to question his sincerity nor his superb statesmanship. He had no fear of men, but stood undaunted and unmoved amid all the vicissitudes of a life cast mid scenes of turbulence and strife and war and murder. And yet withal, he was a kind, benevolent, gentle man gifted with a rich sense of humor but resistant as the granite mountains to evil, injustice, or falsehood."