Everything the Old Country Has Forgotten and Nothing the New Country Has Seen Before
This ongoing series represents an effort to forcefully acknowledge the ameliorative properties of creating art. Though I am ethnically Armenian, I was born in Russia, and adopted by Americans and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. This afforded me little opportunity to establish connections and maintain ties to my ethnic community. After the Armenian genocide of 1915-1917, the Armenians were dispersed, and small but vibrant communities of Armenian people settled across the United States. By creating portraiture of individual people within the community I illustrate the diverse means by which Armenian people embrace their culture and share it with others in their diasporic communities. By creating images that reflect the myriad ways that Armenians in Minnesota express themselves I capture the multiple experiences of building a sense of identity, community, and belonging within the wider context of diaspora. In turn, making these portraits allows me to portray for the viewer aspects of Armenian-American culture which may sometimes be overshadowed by discussion of the genocide. It also affords an opportunity for me to physically sit with members of the Armenian community, to spend time talking about their work, their creative impulses, and their experience of Armenian-ness, and to collaborate in creating an image that they feel best exposes their self to the viewer. By doing so I can negotiate for myself the process of rejoining a community after a period of alienation, and interrogate the meaning of belonging and identity for those displaced from their community, as well as the role that art can take in bridging those gaps.