Trevor Southey, 1940-2015

by Duane Jennings

Late this past Tuesday I got word that Trevor Southey [1940-2015] had passed away in the early evening. I feel a profound loss, but feel honored to have known him as a friend. Trevor has had a huge influence on Utah and in Mormonism.

I first learned of Trevor on KSL Radio in 1981, when an art piece, “Flight Aspiration” commissioned for the Salt Lake City International Airport, became a national news scandal and was removed after organized protests, calling it pornography and saying that it would lead some to rape. I didn’t meet him, however, until my first Affirmation Conference in 1993.

It was when I chaired the 1997 Affirmation Conference that I got to know Trevor as a friend. I organized an art show for the conference at the University of Utah Student Union that featured his and four other gay Mormon artists’ work. Trevor put together a workshop, inviting three of the other four artists to speak on the inter-connectedness of art, spirituality, and sexuality.

On three other occasions, Trevor flew up from California to speak at Affirmation events, including the 30th Anniversary celebration I organized in 2007. Because of the African connection, my husband and I had him over with a couple of other South Africa/Rhodesian friends for a traditional meal.

I have loved speaking with Trevor over the years, discussing life, faith, doubt, anger, forgiveness, art, beauty, family, relationships, history and politics, etc. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all of his many friends and associates.

In 2010, Trevor told the Salt Lake Tribune, “I’ve always expressed my ideals as if I were living and painting in Renaissance Italy, not puritanical heartland America.” Later in life he would say: “I love art. … [L]ike any spiritual nourishment, from bird-song to evensong, it is a critical part of soul health. And great would be the society that could awaken the young to all song with a clear inspiration rather than with some stumbled-upon hearing, while always acknowledging the paradox of the mysterious source. I would be part of that sounding if I could, with my art and with my life. It is people at the personal and societal level who matter most in the building of my life. Art and nature in all its beauty and painful paradox awakened me and keeps me awake.”

Jim Dabakis’ wrote on Wednesday, October 22, 2015: “The world is less beautiful today. The artist Trevor Jack Southey passed. A gentle soul to whom everyone was a friend. So many loved you, Trevor. Future generations will stand in wonder at your art but they will not feel of your kindness and the softness of your spirit.”

A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, November 8, at 3:00 pm in the Dumke Auditorium of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, 410 Campus Center Drive, University of Utah. The following is a short video of some of Trevor Southey’s work and about his featured exhibit at the 2010-2011 Utah Museum of Fine Art, and a couple of other videos and radio interviews followed by a short timeline of key events.

http://umfa.utah.edu/trevorsouthey_reconciliation

Trevor’s obit in the Salt Lake Tribune.
http://www.sltrib.com/home/3086403-155/utah-artist-trevor-southey-who-celebrated

Short documentary on one of Trevor’s sculptures.
http://trevorsouthey.com/assisivideo.html

KRCL interview 2010.
https://soundcloud.com/troy-williams-22/trevor-southey

A life retrospect of his work, KUER story and interview 2010
http://kuer.org/post/trevor-southey-reconciles-life-and-art

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Key events in Trevor Southey’s life. 1940 – He was born in Rhodesia, Africa (now Zimbabwe) of European parents (with 300 years of white African ancestry). As a child he was skinny, timid and plagued with rheumatic fever. He also was able to find a handful of art books at the school library, and became enthralled with the classics, and especially Leonardo da Vinci’s art..

1956 – Graduated from Jameson High School, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe 1957 – Sussex, England, at age of 17 to study at the Brighton College of Art, and a year later to the Natal Technical College in South Africa, where he met Mormon missionaries and was baptized after several months.

Early 60s – Served an LDS mission in South Africa Aid

1965 – He then moved to the United States, which he called the “promised land,” and started studies at Brigham Young University, where he earned two degrees.

1967 – At BYU he met and eventually married Elaine Fish. Their courtship was short and they decided to marry, even though Southey was “haunted by [his] reality.” They eventually had four children: Marianna, Kevin, Sarah and Susannah in Alpine, Utah.

Late 60s, early 70s – Trevor became part of the “Mormon Art and Belief Movement” that included artists Dale Thompson Fletcher, Dennis Smith, writer/poet Carol Lynn Pearson and others.

1969 – Received Masters Degree from BYU.

1969-1977 – BYU Faculty member in the Art Department

1982 – He and Elaine divorced, agreed to joint custody of the children, he moved to Salt Lake City and publicly came out. He was then excommunicated from the LDS Church.

1985 – Moved to the Bay Area, eventually buying a home and setting up his studio, not far from the Oakland LDS Temple.

Though he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease, the 70-year-old continued to produce art until he moved back to Utah around 2013, and even then did a little art.

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2 Comments

  1. Kraig Stephens says:

    SAD to hear this. What a great man that dared to do things others might have not done. I/we are better persons for having his association!

    Blessings,

    Kraig Stephens / Chris Doss

  2. I never knew I pay my respects I only found this because in my bedroom I have a Picture (charcoal) in a red frame that says SOUTHEY, then signed by Trevor Southy it says Old Town Gallery, Park City Utah. My friend passed in 96’ and was raised Mormon and eventually came out and it’s something I have had since he passed, it’s beautiful…

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