Friday, February 12, 2010
Armenian Generational Portraits/Sneak Peeks!
I thought I would give everyone a sneak peek at the project I have been completing for the JPMorganChase/COAHSI Arts in Our Communities ReGrant. The grant asked that artists focus on the Immigrant/Refugee Experience. The images here are two of 4 portraits I will show for this grant and they were taken at different stages of the painting process. Neither portrait is shown in it's complete form (they are full faces) nor at it's completed stage. The project will be shown in April at SHOW gallery (http:// SHOW) here on Staten Island. These two portraits are of my father and mother in law and how they looked when they immigrated to the US from Iran in the 1960's. They are Armenian and their families immigrated first to Iran through a series of moves after the Armenian Genocide in 1915. Their portraits are in black and white to signify the time they arrived in the US and also to suggest the idea that the most prominent description, if not the only description, to their character by the majority of the American public was their "foreign" culture. Personality traits and individual character, to the new world and people around them probably went unrecognized by most. For them, the pride of holding onto their culture was at it's strongest. A significant part of holding onto one's culture is to continue to speak the language. In this project I am using the Armenian language and lettering as a pattern and a symbol. I am using the US Preamble to the Constitution as a sort of foreshadowing. Portraits will become less infused with Armenian lettering as I move through the generations. However, I am hoping to show the struggle to maintain the richness, strength and pride of the Armenian culture as generations become more "American" and individual characters become less "described" by their nationality. The next two portraits I will work on (in generation order) will be of my husband and then my daughter. I approached this project from my husbands family first rather than from my own Italian background for many reasons. I am third generation American while my husband and his siblings are first. My family lost the practice of speaking the Italian language with my Grandparents. I have struggled to reconnect with my Italian culture all of my adult life. My husband and my in laws still speak their language fluently and frequently. When they are together it is spoken as much, if not more than English ( it's my hope that they infuse my child with this practice). They also have a very unique and emotional set of circumstances that inevitably brought them to this country. First, with the Armenian Genocide and then, the political situation in Iran at the time of their departure. It also just seemed to make more sense in terms of the idea of the grant because their immigration to this country was far more recent. However, when these portraits are shown in April the project will be complete in terms of this grant only. I would very much love to continue and approach the culmination to my daughters portrait from my families side as well. I would also like to include more portraits on both sides representing more generations. Perhaps, I will seek out funding to continue the project. Keep an eye out for an Exhibit opening date somewhere in April (to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, April 24, 1915)