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Taiwan artist will set aside brushes for mission

SHARE Taiwan artist will set aside brushes for mission

TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Shortly after Esther Tsai graduates from Taiwan University of Art this June she will leave home, family and her art behind.Perhaps her journey will be to a far-off land or it might be to some region of her native island. The reason for her journey: Esther will put on hold her promising career in art in order to serve an 18-month mission for the Church."I've dreamed of many places, but I'll go where the Lord wants me to go," said the 22-year-old artist as she awaits her mission call.Members of the Church in many parts of the world were introduced to Sister Tsai's tender artistic touch in April. Her portrait of a loving Asian mother and child appeared on page 43 of the April issue of the Ensign and on the cover of the April issue of the Church's internationally distributed magazine, Liahona.Esther comes by her talent and her love of art naturally. Her mother, Rachel Tsai, is also an accomplished artist and art teacher. The mother's painting of a young woman reading scripture also can be found in the April Ensign, on page 40."My mother is my greatest inspiration," Esther said. "She not only introduced me to art, but she set the gospel example for me."One of those examples her mother set that Esther will soon follow is to serve a mission. When Esther was growing up, her mother often told her stories of her mission in southern Taiwan in the early 1980s.Nathan Tsai said of his daughter, "Esther is a very obedient and humble girl. She demonstrates her emotion through her paintings."Although always exposed to the world of Asian art, Esther said she didn't get serious about painting until junior high school. When she reached high school age she was admitted into a special school for the arts and there her skill blossomed. Her art began to be recognized in competitions in which she took many first-place awards.Her work, which she considers to be a modified form of traditional Chinese style, is usually done in water color. A unique aspect of her painting is that she specializes in people."I like to portray the feelings and spirit of my subjects," she said.This is in contrast to much of traditional Chinese art, which tends to focus on nature.Observes Tadd Peterson, lead designer with the Church Curriculum Department, "I was struck by the elegance and purity of Esther's artwork. Her art captures the beauty and peace of a traditional Chinese painting while telling a powerful contemporary story."He noted that Esther's painting that appeared in the Ensign and Liahona was perfect for representing Asian culture and the principles contained in "The Family, A Proclamation to the World."For her senior project at the Taiwan University of Art, a broad selection of Esther's paintings was on display. Included were more than a dozen works, nearly all of which captured various aspects of human emotion.What's more, many of Esther's paintings relate to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. "I feel the Spirit urging me to include gospel themes in my paintings," she said.For example, one painting at her show features a young woman, a hand cart and a wagon wheel. Lightly written in the background are the words "Mormon Trail." In another, a self portrait, Esther is seated on a stool reading the Book of Mormon and in the background is a profile of the prophet Joseph Smith.The general public viewing her paintings might not always notice the subtle gospel messages in her work, but her close acquaintances understand."My friends at the university know that I am a Christian and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They respect my desire to include my faith in my paintings," she said.Following her mission, Esther plans on a graduate degree in art administration and hopes to someday teach art."But most of all I want to have a family in the gospel," she emphasized.As for her future works of art, she said, "I want my paintings to serve the Lord."