BYU displays Jorge Cocco’s new paintings of Christ’s 7 law-related roles

Brigham Young University has a new must-see landmark.

Acclaimed sacrocubist painter Jorge Coco unveiled his original new seven-panel polyptych of scenes from Jesus Christ’s ministry Friday in the lobby outside the moot courtroom at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, where it will hang permanently.

The paintings depict the seven law-related roles of the Savior invoked in the law school’s mission statement, said the school’s dean, Gordon Smith. They are part of a recent, ongoing effort to use art to help build faith among its students, he said.

Left to right, Gordon Smith, Ruth and Gary Sine, artist Jorge Cocco and BYU President Kevin Worthen for Cocco's paintings.

BYU law school Dean Gordon Smith, left, poses with Ruth and Gary Sine, artist Jorge Cocco and BYU President Kevin Worthen at the unveiling of Cocco’s seven-panel painting of Jesus Christ’s law-related roles at the BYU J. Reuben Clark School of Law in Provo, Utah, on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.

The paintings also communicate the law school’s unique mission to teach the laws of men through the light of Christ, said Jared Sine, who commissioned the paintings with his wife, Ruth. Jared Sine is the chief business affairs & legal officer at Match Group, which operates Match.com and Tinder.

Smith cited John Milton as he described the purpose of the paintings.

“When you see the seven paintings with Jesus as healer, Jesus as mediator, Jesus as a counselor, Jesus as a peacemaker, Jesus as advocate, Jesus as lawgiver and Jesus as judge,” he said at Friday’s unveiling, “I hope you will see one who loves each of us dearly, and I hope the paintings will inspire you to love him, to imitate him and to be like him.

The backstory of the display began last year when Smith visited the Sines in their Dallas home, where they have a Cocco painting of Christ’s life. When the Sines told Smith they knew Cocco, Smith told them that one of his students, Ruben Felix, had suggested that the law school commission Cocco to create new paintings of Christ for the law school.

The Sines and Cocco are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors BYU.

Smith also told the Sines that the law school had a new mission statement, approved in 2021, that includes the sentence, “We are committed to the teachings of Jesus Christ and honor his many roles, including healer, mediator, counselor, peacemaker, advocate , lawgiver and judge.”

The Sines agreed to commission the paintings and donate them permanently to BYU. Jared Sine said he was motivated by his experience of him as a new first-year BYU law student. When he was hospitalized for an emergency surgery that left him bedridden for two months, professors and other students spent hours at his bedside, reading casebooks to him and studying with him.

It was like, he said, “Christ’s arms were reaching out to me through those students.”

“These halls are hallowed halls … because of the people who walk these halls and because it’s a place where the spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ flows freely,” Jared Sines said during Friday’s unveiling ceremony. “That’s not something that happens often in law buildings.”

Cocco, 85, is an Argentine who has earned international acclaim for combining sacred images and a post-cubist style he calls sacrocubism. Last Christmas, six of his paintings by him about the birth of Christ were featured on stamps issued by the United Kingdom’s postal service, the Royal Mail.

“I use colors and shapes that convey a spiritual message, because a color and a shape can produce an impact that is superior to the visual and can teach our spirits, similar to what we find in music.”

He said he used purples in the new paintings to represent elevated, spiritual elements and contrasted it with earth tones of brown and green.

“Painting Jesus Christ takes the highest degree of commitment and is the heaviest burden for an artist,” Cocco said in Spanish translated by his son, Amiel. “I couldn’t portray Jesus Christ correctly if I did not have a testimony of him.”

He said the law-related paintings came naturally because Christ’s work is universal.

“The ministry of Christ is larger in scope than we suppose,” he said. “It encompasses all human capacities, including law, art and many other things.”

Smith, who is stepping down as BYU law dean, said the school aims to provide a transformative experience for its students.

“Ideally, we want them to leave with a strong sense of their own faith and testimony and value,” he said. “If they can leave here with the understanding that they are valued and loved by us and by their Savior, then we think they can pass that on to their clients and other people they meet. If we’re generating the kind of lawyer that helps people feel loved and valued and respected, I think then we have something that’s truly distinctive at BYU, and then our religious mission makes a lot of sense for a law school.”

Cocco thanked the Sines for commissioning the paintings.

“We artists need support,” he said. “It was thanks to the old patrons of the Renaissance that today we have some of the greatest pieces ever created. Those artists wouldn’t have been able to create without the financial support of the people in society’s upper levels.”

The cost of the commission was not revealed.

Sine said he wants the paintings to inspire law students both now and in the future.

“I hope that as each of you walk past that wall every day, that you look at it and you remember why you’re here, you remember who you are,” he said. “You are sons and daughters of God. You are disciples of Jesus Christ. And as you go forward in your law school careers, as you go forward in your legal careers, remember who you are. Remember where you came from. Remember who you are serving. That’s your savior, Jesus Christ.”

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