RIP Trevor Southey

Trevor Southey passed away yesterday. Joseph-Smith-three-views-e1374478814675Southey was an artist, sculptor, Mormon, gay man, husband, ex-husband, father and a host of other adjectives.
Born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Southey joined the Church in South Africa and moved to Utah. He studied and taught at BYU. His ‘Alpine modernist’ style combines realistic forms in with abstract elements. The human form was at the center of much of his work. He saw grace and beauty in the human body, even while administrators around him would not permit sketching from nudes. “the reason the human is central to my work is because it’s central to my life,” he said. He would establish an artistic community in Alpine.

He married Elaine Fish and has four children. At age 42 he came out as a gay man, and moved to California. He loved Elaine but could not suppress his identity as a gay man, a gay Mormon. He would later be excommunicated. Writing of when he joined the Church, he said “I was only beginning to sense the terrible paradox of the solitude of the soul in its eternal, excruciating, wonderful dance toward union with another.”

He was 75.


  1. Mary Lythgoe Bradford says:

    When I was editor of Dialogue Trevor did some wonderful work for us.

  2. It is worth mentioning that toward the end of his life, Trevor began attending church again in Oakland and was a beloved member of the ward family. He participated as much as his health would allow, gave a fireside on his life and art, donated prints for various fundraising efforts, and even painted an enormous ghoul for the primary trunk-or-treat. He will be greatly missed. As his daughter Marianna said, “Even if he had never put a brush to canvas, he left a huge legacy.”

  3. I’d love to see a picture of that ghoul.

  4. The old Church History Library displayed one of his sculptures, one that doesn’t seem to have made it to the new building. It fascinated me. I never did figure out quite how he made those angels, cast in metal, seem so light, and make them float so full of energy and movement. He was truly a great artist.

  5. Shirley Bleakley says:

    When I arrived from England to study at BYU in 1969, Trevor Southey was assigned to be my mentor. He was a Godsend to me because being Rhodesian, Trevor was familiar with the British college system and was able to help me transfer my college credits to fit into the American system. I remember Trevor as being very patient and understanding, a lovely man and a brilliant artist. I am very sorry to hear of his death.

  6. Trevor’s large paintings were prominently displayed on the BYU campus when I was a student there in the 1970s and he was the first “Mormon Artist” I became aware of. I learned in the 1990s that he lived in the boundaries of our Oakland ward but was no longer a member. I had a handful of interactions with him over the next 20 years as he occasionally attended church with one of his visiting children and we acquired a couple of his small etchings. Our interactions were warm (he was always charming) but melancholy for me because of the distance that had opened up between Trevor and the Church, as each had moved in different directions since the 70s. It was a joy and miracle to me that that distance closed significantly in the last few years of Trevor’s life and we had the pleasure of his attendance in our Oakland High Priests group. This reconciliation was the result of generosity, service and openness I observed from both Trevor and leaders and members of our ward–one of the high points of my church life. So sad that he’s gone.

  7. I have always enjoyed Trevor’s art. He will be missed.

  8. You can see ~50 pieces of his in the BYU Museum of Art online collections. Great work

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    I had not heard; thanks for letting us know.

  10. Thrown Away says:

    Trevor Southey was truly one of the smartest, funniest, wisest, kindest, thoughtful, and most talented individuals to walk the planet. It was one of the church’s greatest losses when it turned away such a man. My hope is that future “Trevors” will one day be welcome in the Mormon church.

  11. Amen.

  12. Thank you Steve for recognising his passing. I have a great fondness for his work.

  13. i was introduced to trevor southey’s art through his illustrations of carol lynn pearson’s poetry. they were so beautiful. thank you for sharing this tribute.

  14. May this “odd duck” (as he referred to himself [and others] in the PBS special) find his peaceful pond. And may his memory be a blessing.

  15. May I extend a special thank you to Trevor for being one of the most wonderful mentors and art and design teachers all those years ago at BYU. He had the unique gift of helping students see and bring out the best in themselves. I am a successful architect to this day because of his positive influence on students. Additionally, may I say thank you for the positive influence he was to the small town of Alpine, Utah and for his incredible contribution to the Alpine Arts council. He will be deeply missed by all who knew and admired him. He was truly a gentle soul who made this world better for all of us. His art will continue to bless the lives of others for generations to come. Heber J. Hurd, Architect, Temecula, California.

  16. Amen!

  17. Patrick benham says:

    A word here from England. Trevor was a fellow student with me at Brighton College of Arts and Crafts around 1957/58. Very gifted and a great friend to a whole bunch of us. It was interesting to hear his stories about his home country of Rhodesia. I regret I did not keep more closely in touch with him after he went to the States..

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