BYU Law School’s New Art Jorge Cocco Communicates Values to Students
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My favorite lawyers tell knee-popping lawyer jokes. It’s a great tradition.
Here is a funny a:
Having just moved into a new house, a young boy meets the boy next door. “Hi, my name is Billy,” he said. “What is your?” “Tommy,” replies the other. “My dad is an accountant,” Billy said. “What does your daddy do?” “He’s a lawyer,” Tommy replies. “Honest?” Billy asks. “No, just the normal kind.”
Jokes are a great way to signal that while some lawyers fit the cultural stereotype, others — most, according to BYU Law School Dean Gordon Smith — use it for good.
“I think some people don’t always see lawyers as peacemakers, especially if we foment conflict to generate business, but that’s not what most lawyers do,” Smith told me on Friday. .
We had begun our conversation in front of the seven striking, original and new paintings by Jorge Cocco Santángelo showing Jesus Christ playing the legal roles he held – healer, mediator, counselor, peacemaker, advocate, legislator and judge. (See all seven paintings below.)
The paintings now hang permanently on a wall outside the fictional courtroom on the third floor of the J. Reuben Clark Law Building. Smith, on the other hand, was walking while we were talking. He showed me around the paintings and photos that the law school recently started putting up around the building.
“The law school as an art museum,” he said.
Standing momentarily in his office, which includes both paintings and large photographed portraits of people around the world, he said the role of a lawyer is to reduce conflict.
“Most of us try to resolve conflicts, we try to resolve differences, and do it in a way that allows people to go away as peacefully as possible. The purpose of the legal system is to prevent violent conflict,” he said.
The goal is to use the rule of law – everyone follows a set of laws that are publicly created, applied equally and judged independently – rather than descending into violence and chaos.
“Lawyers are truly peacemakers in our society, and we want to highlight that to students,” Smith said.
That’s why Cocco’s image of Jesus Christ as a peacemaker is the centerpiece of his seven new paintings hanging at the law school.
Cocco spoke at the unveiling. He said the burden he carries wakes up every day with more images in his mind than he can ever finish. When I interviewed him afterwards, I asked him what else he wanted people to know.
“I feel honored and grateful,” he said, “to have the opportunity to connect with other human beings through the gift God has given me.”
Communicating with law students through art is exactly what Smith wants to do. He assigned one of the law school employees to oversee the art in the building.
“We try to communicate through art what we hope our students will aspire to become upon graduating from law school, which is people who serve one with perseverance and ensure that no one is forgotten,” he said.
“It’s hard to teach. It’s more difficult to do. »
The idea started with an exhibition of photographs designed to communicate the idea that each person has value and is worthy of respect, concepts from the 2018 Declaration of Punta del Este of Human Dignity for Everyone Everywhere, an international document created in part by BYU’s International Center for Legal and Religious Studies.
Today, an exhibit about the declaration and photographs of people from around the world adorn a wall on the second floor of the courthouse.
“When that happened, I had this little revelation that we have all these walls here that are educational spaces, basically, like an art museum,” Smith said as we watched this exhibit from the lobby. from the third floor.
“So in our library we now have an exhibit on women’s suffrage, and outside the courtroom on the lower level we have an exhibit on the civil justice system in the United States. “
Smith then walked me around a corner to see a copy of Maynard Dixon’s famous 1934 painting, “forgotten man.” The BYU Museum of Art owns the original painting. A print hangs in the office by President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors BYU.
Chairman Oaks is the first vice chairman of BYU’s board of directors.
Smith has speak often about why he had a copy of “Forgotten Man” installed at law school.
“As advocates, our job is to treat each individual with respect and to make it clear that they are children of our Heavenly Father, that their value is great in the sight of God, and that no one should be forgotten,” said he declared. “It’s our role, to ensure that no one is forgotten.”
Smith told me that the law school was discussing with another well-known Latter-day Saint artist the possibility of creating another painting for the law school related to Christ’s teachings on the value of all.
“Our hope is to drive these themes home to our students,” Smith said. “If you’re a lawyer and that’s deep in you, you’ll be a great lawyer.”
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