Ortho Fairbanks: Mormon Artist
Ortho R. Fairbanks was a member of the artistic Fairbanks family (including John Fairbanks, his grandfather) and became an accomplished sculptor.
He was born in April 25, 1925, in Salt Lake City. He earned both Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Utah, where his uncle Avard Fairbanks taught him. He assisted his uncle in carving on several works that his uncle is exclusively credited. Ortho has sculptures on display in the Utah State Capitol Building. His piece, Eliza Snow, is on display outside the Pioneer Memorial Building. He is the sculptor of the Karl G. Maeser statue on the Brigham Young University campus. His bust of Joseph Smith was created from his study of the death mask owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is owned by the Church History Museum. He has works of art all over the world.
Ortho was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and taught art from 1960 to 1968 at the Church College of Hawaii, now Brigham Young University-Hawaii and at Northland Pioneer College in Arizona. In 1965, he took a sabbatical from the Church College of Hawaii to study sculpture in Italy. While there, he learned about the conversion story of Vincenzo Di Francesca and brought his autobiographical sketch to the Improvement Era office, which Vincenzo had written for him. After verifying facts, the Improvement Era published an article called “Burn the Book,” and Di Francesca’s story was later made into a film called “How Rare a Possession.”
Fairbanks and his wife, Myrna, were the parents of five children. He served a mission to New Zealand beginning a few days after his marriage. He was a World War II veteran. He passed away on June 2, 2015.