Reimagining A Lost Homeland: Ottoman Era Photographs from the Dildilian Studio

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The exhibit, which is co-sponsored by Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives and on display until April 9th, highlights the work from the Dildilian family’s business: a photography studio first founded in 1888.

Unlike many of the more well-known photographers of the Ottoman Empire who practiced in Constantinople, the Dildilian family worked primarily in central Anatolia and the Black Sea Coast. The family business was first founded by Tsolag Dildilian in Sivas, or historic Sepastia, and studios were opened across the Empire over a period of 30 years in cities like Amasya, Konya and Adana.

The family was able to survive the Armenian Genocide because the Ottoman military and civilian authorities needed their skills as photographers, and the Dildilians were allowed to remain in their hometown of Marsovan under the condition that they convert to Islam and adopt Turkish identities.

Dr. Armen T. Marsoobian, a descendent of the Dildilians, is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Southern Connecticut University and has authored a number of books on the Armenian Genocide and his family’s photography, including the new release “Dildilian Brothers – Memories of a Lost Armenian Home: Photography and the Story of an Armenian Family in Anatolia, 1888-1923.”

Marsoobian has generously thanked “Gary Lind-Sinanian, curator of the Armenian Museum of America, whose expertise in mounting the exhibition is gratefully acknowledged,” as well as Ruth Thomasian, and the staff and volunteers at Project SAVE, who “have been of invaluable assistance over the years.”

Marsoobian has organized exhibitions in Istanbul, Merzifon, Diyarbakir, Armenia, the U.S., and the U.K. based upon his family’s Ottoman-era photography collection.

More than 900 photographs and glass negatives survived the period, along with family member’s memoirs describing events and life during the tumultuous and tragic period of the Massacres and Genocide.

Approximately 150 enlarged reproduction photographs make up the exhibit, with subjects ranging from family members, community streets, buildings and colleges, hospitals, orphans, and atrocities from the Genocide, all accompanied by extensive eyewitness accounts from Dildilian family members.

"Interlace" Exhibition

Interlace - Talin Megherian plait |plāt, plat|

noun

a single length of hair or other flexible material made up of three or more interlaced strands; a braid.

  • archaic term for pleat.

verb [ with obj. ]

form (hair or other material) into a plait or plaits.

  • make (something) by forming material into a plait or plaits.

 

Memory, Story, Identity

"My braid images hold stories and memories, most of which I have not experienced myself but are closely connected to me. As physical objects, the braids I paint from observation are my own, from when I was about nine. The costumes worn for Armenian women’s dance performances often portray the woman with two long dark braids. These hair extensions read as a symbol for the Armenian female. I learned traditional dances and have seen dance performances throughout my life—expressions of beauty that deeply connect an entire culture. Growing up, I always had two long dark braids, until I reluctantly agreed to have them cut off. I kept them. Today I paint them.

I’ve heard and read accounts of the atrocities of the Armenian genocide—philosophers, artists, priests, and teachers were some of the first to go. My father was born in the Armenian Diaspora. He was born while his family was fleeing from their homeland. His father wanted to leave him in the snow, because of the difficulty of traveling on foot with and infant. My grandmother refused and she fed him chewed grass to keep him alive. My grandfather was a guerilla fighter. He was captured by Turkish soldiers and thrown into prison. Three years later he escaped. It is amazing that he survived, let alone, reunited with his family.

There are tragic stories from both sides of my family. I feel compelled to give them a voice—in part, for a people that have not healed, and in part, for myself and for my family that still remembers. I feel the small degrees of separation between me, and the events that occurred during the genocide. In particular, I work to give voice to that of Armenian women—imagery of beauty marginalized and compromised by brutality.

Connected-hair, so close to my being; disconnected, my hair."

-Talin Megherian

For more on Talin Megherian, visit http://www.talinmegherian.com/. To learn more about other exhibition openings at ALMA, click here.

Women's Work: Armenian Textiles and Dolls

Although Armenians are famed for their beautiful religious art: church architecture, illuminated manuscripts and intricate khatchkars (stone crosses), the most common form of artistic expression was through their textiles, a far more ephemeral medium. From time immemorial, Armenian women have created and ornamented clothing and created works that delighted the eye of the wearer and viewer. A bride's worth and reputation was judged by her hand skills. The works on exhibit showcase a sampling of different genres of women's art created in the last century. Embroidered clothing, exquisite laces, knitted socks, domestic furnishings, knotted rugs and other fine examples made for domestic use or to be sold commercially are shown with more recent genres made by Armenian-American women. The women immigrants continued to value embroideries and hand skills, but often used new means to express their creativity. Crochets, needlepoint, and political banners joined older forms of needlework. The art of doll making, once specifically intended for children, became a means of expressing dépaysement, the yearning for a lost homeland. Dolls became a means of celebrating the lost traditions of folk dress that once defined all Armenian women, identifying their social class or region of origin.

The Armenian Museum of America in Watertown now houses the largest collection of Armenian textiles in North America and is a rich resource for textile research. This exhibit, co-sponsored by the Armenian International Women's Association, is on display in the second floor gallery from September 23-February 28.

"East Meets West" Joint Photography Exhibition

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The Armenian Museum of America (ALMA) will be the setting for a joint photography exhibit throughout the months of October and November.Featured will be the combined works of Tom Vartabedian and Sona (Dulgarian) Gevorkian titled “East Meets West.” A reception to celebrate the opening of the exhibition will take place Sunday, October 23, from 2 to 4 pm on the third floor of the Museum in the Adele & Haig Der Manuelian Galleries. The exhibit will combine Vartabedian’s trips to Armenia over the past decade and Gevorkian’s travels throughout Nagorno-Karabagh. Co-sponsoring the event will be Project SAVE (Armenian Photographic Archives) where Vartabedian has served as a member of the Board of Directors over the past seven years. Gevorkian has traveled to Armenia more than a dozen times between 1989 to 2008 with different organizations including an AYF internship with the Parliament, Land & Culture Organization for excavation and earthquake relief. The trips have also evolved into side ventures to Karabagh. Gevorkian has worked for the Armenian Relief Society (Eastern Region) for several years and serves on the executive for the Lowell ARS Chapter. She has studied at UMass/Amherst in Social Studies and International Relations. Photography has always remained a keen interest since her youth. She has exhibited her work at the Bedford Public Library and has compiled photo books of Armenian and Karabagh for family members. Gevorkian works as a Special Education Aide in Concord Public Schools. She resides in Bedford with her husband Allen and three children, Datev, 14; Tsoline, 13, and Narineh, 12. Vartabedian is no stranger to ALMA, having exhibited there in the past with prints of Armenia and newspaper photography. An exhibit titled “Armenian Village People: A Country Kaleidascope” was displayed at libraries throughout Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire in commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. He is the recipient of several photography awards from United Press International, Associated Press and the New England Press Association. He was honored as a Master Photographer with the New England Camera Club Council. A veteran news reporter, Vartabedian retired from The Haverhill Gazette in 2006, but his stories and columns continued to be featured weekly in Armenian papers throughout the country. He has also co-authored a book this year titled “The Armenians of the Merrimack Valley.” He is married to Nancy Vartabedian. They live in Haverhill and are parents to three and grandparents to six.

Crossroads: Art of Gagik Aroutiunian

On Sunday, September 11, the Armenian Museum will be hosting the opening of a new exhibition: The Crossroads: Art of Gagik Aroutiunian, at 2:00 PM in the Adele and Haig Der Manuelian Galleries on the third floor. The opening of this exhibition, which will feature artwork from three of Aroutiunian’s series’, will include a reception where light refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to the public. Centering on artificially created environments, Aroutiunian’s work focuses on heightening an image’s sense of detachment from its setting. His sculptures hold a juxtaposition between this detachment and a representation of memory and its transience.

Aroutiunian states that the result of this juxtaposition is “a peculiar relationship between the figure and its environment, and the establishment of a new reality.”

LEGACY I (126 x 96) (3)

The works in this exhibit are from three series: “Artsakh,” “House of Memories,” and “Traveler on His Road.”

Armenian-born, Aroutiunian grew up in the former Soviet Republic and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in painting from the University of Toronto, and an Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from Towson University. A naturalized Canadian citizen, he has lived and worked in Lithuania, Poland, Italy and Canada.

For the last 20 years, Aroutiunian has resided in the United States and held solo exhibitions across New England, the United States and internationally, and his work can be found in many private and museum collections in England, Germany, Poland, Canada and the U.S.

Aroutiunian currently resides in Chicago and splits his time between making art and teaching it as an associate professor at DePaul University’s Department of Art, Media and Design.

To learn more about Gagik Aroutiunian and his sculptures, visit www.gagikaroutiunian.com.

Reflections on Genocide: Atrium School Connects to the Watertown Community

As part of a combined, culminating project for "Genocide and Human Behavior" and 8th Grade's study of "Art and Community," students at the Atrium School  have been working on a project that was sparked by not only their studies in each class respectively, but also by their visit to Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives. Students spent time "reading photos" with the founder of Project SAVE, and have made close inspections of the preserved information contained in many "still life" moments captured on film. They were asked to take away what resonated with them in regards to the photos they saw, the stories they heard, and connect this with their community of Watertown, which is one of the oldest Armenian communities in America.

Imagery from Project SAVE Archives and images found on the Internet are used to make paintings using the gel medium, image transfer process onto canvas. A similar process was invented and made famous by the artist Robert Raushenberg.

Students also looked at the work of John Avakian (Sharon, MA) an Armenian artist who has been creating art about the Armenian Genocide since 1990. He is known for his monumental mono-prints which make use of the transfer technique as well as photographs taken during the Armenian Genocide. Students used text as key elements in their paintings, which they selected form their Project SAVE experience and their studies on "Genocide and Human Behavior."

Project SAVE Archives is the permanent archive of Armenian photographs in the country. The Armenian culture is preserved in their repository, and as stewards of this culture, they are experts in teaching and allowing visitors to find their connections to this society that was eradicated a century ago.

"The Spectrum of a Legacy" by Ani Babaian

On Sunday, May 15, the Armenian Museum will be hosting the opening of a new exhibition: The Spectrum of a Legacy at 2:00 PM in the Adele and Haig Der Manuelian Galleries on the third floor. The opening of this exhibition, which features the artwork of Ani Babaian, will include a reception where light refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to the public. Ani Babaian is a native of Isfahan, Iran and holds a Master of Fine Arts from Alzahra University in Tehran, where she wrote a thesis entitled “Mutual Influences, New Julfa and Isfahan Mural Paintings of the 17th Century.”

Babaian is a fine art painter who has participated in solo and group  exhibitions in Iran (Isfahan, Tehran), Armenia (Yerevan) and the United States (Lowell, Lexington, Watertown and New York). The most recent of the group exhibitions have been held at the Tally Beck Contemporary Art Gallery, the Whistler House Museum of Art and the Armenian Museum of America.In Iran, Babaian also worked on numerous restoration projects, most notably murals at the St. Amenaprkich Vank (Holy Savior Cathedral) in New Julfa, Isfahan. She is the author of many articles and has presented many public talks on Armenian and Persian art.

In 2008, she married her husband Saro Khachikian from Peabody, in Yerevan and in 2010, they moved to Massachusetts.In 2013 Babaian joined the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) with the primary task of cataloguing the Mardigian Library.In 2014, she was invited to Yerevan and Isfahan to present her paper on the 350th anniversary of the St. Amenaprkich Vank (Holy Savior Cathedral), regarding murals, artists and new findings discovered during restoration process.