“View Art Competition Winners Online at LDS.org,” Ensign, June 2006, 75–76
There is a story behind the tattered-lace Tree of Life, now viewable online at www.lds.org/museum, along with the rest of the pieces from the Seventh International Art Competition exhibit, “Our Heritage of Faith.”
For the artist, a Merit Award recipient, the piece represents not only the heritage of the Book of Mormon but her own heritage as well, tracing back to her youth in Syria.
Melva Hindoian-Emrazian, born in Syria 81 years ago, learned lace making at age 14 from her mother, who learned the craft in an orphanage as a child. Sister Emrazian now teaches her daughter and granddaughter the technique.
Members worldwide have the opportunity to see her award-winning work online, even if they do not have the opportunity to visit the Museum of Church History and Art in downtown Salt Lake City, at least for the next few months.
Like the other 25 Merit Award recipients announced at the opening of the exhibit, Sister Emrazian’s work will be showcased and then returned. Curator Robert Davis explains that funds allowed the museum to bestow 15 Purchase Awards to acquire the pieces for the Church’s permanent collection of art.
Artists and guests filled the Assembly Hall on Temple Square for the awards ceremony on March 27, 2006. To have a work included in the 235 pieces displayed—out of more than 900 submissions in all—is an honor.
That’s nearly 200 more submissions than the previous competition.
Competitions are held every three years. The increase in submissions is a milestone in the effort to stimulate the production of Latter-day Saint art around the world. The competition was initially designed to help develop the museum’s collection of art but has yielded an ever-increasing response each year. A number of the pieces will be featured in the Ensign and Liahona magazines to touch the lives of members throughout the world.
The purchased pieces represent a variety of media and subjects. One in particular, a still-life oil painting done by Rebecca Wetzel Wagstaff, is unique in Brother Davis’s eyes. “The Church very seldom buys pieces like this,” he says, commenting on its content. The painting, Emblems, depicts a vase of flowers and various objects, such as two tickets and a picture of the Nauvoo Temple hanging in the background—nothing overtly religious, Brother Davis adds. And yet he favors it. “It shows the flow of life,” he says.
Richard G. Oman, senior curator at the museum and a judge in the competition, explains the selection process.
“What makes LDS art unified?” Brother Oman asks. “The gospel of Jesus Christ. The challenge we have is to put art in the context it comes from,” he said of the process of placing the style in its indigenous part of the world. Then comes the second evaluation—how well the artist conveyed the theme.
For Sister Emrazian, the theme “Our Heritage of Faith” aligned with the teachings of her grandfather.
“He had a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon, and he made sure we knew it,” she says. Her grandfather joined the Church in Turkey in 1893, shortly after the first missionaries arrived in the country. “He was eager to share [the gospel] with his family,” she says. “When Lehi ate the fruit from the tree of life, it was so delicious he wanted to share it with his family. With my Tree of Life, I pay tribute to my family. I like to keep the heritage alive.”
Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, Executive Director of the Family and Church History Department, thanked the artists at the awards ceremony.
“This provides a way for art across the world to show reverence for Heavenly Father and His will,” he said. “It deepens our appreciation of each other.”