Glendale art exhibit uses lavash bread to honor Armenian heritage

GLENDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- During the pandemic, the She Loves Collective of artists created a three-room pop-up exhibit on Artsakh Avenue through a grant from the city of Glendale.

"Around the pandemic, there was a huge war that sparked back home. It was a huge shock when we lost the war, and it was like a huge stab in our hearts. We have to rise up," said Nelly Achkhen Sarkissian, She Loves Collective co-founder and artist.

"It was very hard in the beginning due to COVID. There were many restrictions," said She Loves Collective founder and curator of Her Relic, Adrineh Baghdassarian. "We couldn't be in a gallery. We couldn't be in a public space. We couldn't have an audience."

Her relic was one of the rooms in that exhibit and is now situated in the Glendale Central Library's ReflectSpace. Baghdassarian hopes to evoke specific memories in people who look at the installation.

"By having you look at these objects in this room and these memories are attached to your ancestors, they're attached to your family, they're attached to your mother," she said.

It's designed to honor Armenian women and ancestors through a staple ingredient in their culture: lavash.

UNESCO recognized the bread's preparation, meaning and appearance as a cultural expression in Armenia.

"It's universal, and I don't have to be just Armenian. I can feel bread regardless of where I come from. Regardless of who I am," said Baghdassarian.



"Different colors of brown where it's burnt; It almost feels like a skin that is burned. It has a lot that it went through, a lot of trauma. And this room really brings that sensation of a healing," said Sarkissian.

Baghdassarian said people have been deeply moved when visiting. "Many, many stories of people crying, people remembering stories," she said.

"It's like walking into a fantasy of food and lavash. My first thought was, 'I forgot to bring the cheese,'" said Armine Juraghatspanyan. "Like most Armenian families, lavash is a staple in our household," she added.

Images of Armenian women found through the library's collection are displayed in what resembles the tonir - the clay oven in which the lavash is made. The artists describe a huge undertaking for the collective.

"Literally we worked day and night to pull this off," said Baghdassarian.

"The proudest moment was that we did this in our own backyard," she said. "A city where we all know. People can just take five minutes and drive to us."

The exhibit runs through Aug. 15.
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