an anecdotal tidbit from my trip to eghegis that i forgot to share re: wine produced in the village of areni and environs (in the arpa river valley near the borders of iran and turkey)
all along the road there are stands selling large bottles of coca cola and other sodas. however, the liquid in the bottles is actually wine (it is generally reputed not to be of the quality that one finds in the corked & bottled products). this camouflage makes it possible for the iranian truck drivers to take wine with them when they drive back into iran (do we assume that the border guards allow this with a wink or perhaps some baksheesh...)
(i didn't take a photo of the stands and so i thank emily for use of hers above)
back to june 22nd
i continued to spend time in the gallery every day which gave me the opportunity to meet visitors and listen to their questions and comments about the work. on tuesday, june 22nd, visitors included flora keshishian (prof. dept. speech, commun. sciences & theater, st. john's univ, queens, ny) and four of her armenian-australian friends, including a ceramic artist (do australians self identify as do hyphenated americans...???). keshishian's passion seemed to be her drawing and she spoke of the energy to make art that results from her being in armenia. i thought a lot about this as one can imagine that the enervating heat of yerevan could easily stifle creativity (particularly in those not accustomed to the weather). but it is that which is invisible yet is clearly there when here that pushes one to communicate using art as the vehicle the thoughts and feelings running around in one's head.
on the 22nd another visitor to the gallery who i did not personally meet entered a lovely message in my notebook that i want to share:
All the best
All the brest
Love the rest
i had been invited to make a presentation of my work to the students of the open university art department. susanna teaches cultural studies to these students. that her course on gender studies is required, in the context of armenian society, is of great significance.
about 15+ students gathered (vacation had already begun, exams were over and most students work at least part time). as i went through my images they expressed surprise at the subject matter of some of my work, although i think that the surprise was probably that social problems that exist in armenia also exist in the u.s.
after the presentations the two students seated on the right of the photo above (they are married to each other) engaged me in very intense conversation about conceptual art, asking what a difference i think my work makes in the scheme of life. they are grappling with this in a very personal way as they are driven to create conceptual work but in fact because of their financial situation they had to drop out of school.
my presentation was followed by fellow acsl artist-in-residence jeri bahm-colombik presenting her individual art work (painting drawing and sculpture) which is quite separate from the work that jerry does in collaboration with roger.
thursday evening june 24th i was invited to have dinner at the home of the martirosyan family.
about a week before the june 21st opening i was walking back to the hostel with a delicious rotisserie chicken in hand for a few days' packed lunches and very late dinners. my cell phone rang and it was a call from a number that had previously registered on the phone as 7 missed calls. i never found out if it was a wrong number or kids having fun with an english (non-armenian) speaker, but as i was attempting to speak with the caller a young woman ran up to me and asked in english if she could help me. this was my introduction to my new friend shushan, a 17 year old artist. shushan's father, the symbolic painter samuel martirosyan (his characterization when i described some of his work as surreal) and her mother rusan attended my opening with shushan. i also met her artist/student brother mikael when i had dinner at their home on the 24th.
samuel's studio is in their home and i was able to see some of the sculpture that he is working on. he has moved into using found objects for his sculptured figures from past work of finely wrought cast bronze pieces. the walls of their home are filled with samuel's work, dark themes peopled with images of family members. mikael favors pastels rather than the oil paint used by his father (perhaps a factor of economics, i didn't ask) but is also autobiographical and dark. shushan who is currently preparing her portfolio for the entrance exam into the academy favors water colors. to me her style is more a reflection of her age but her basic skills are evident.
in addition to discussing art we spoke of the recent years of deprivation in armenia, and how his painting was what enabled samuel to get through those very tough times. the family was incredibly warm and welcoming, embracing me as if our families had a long and storied history.
the feast that rusan had prepared was mouth-watering. once again i had the chance to eat the pride of many armenian cooks: dolmas, accompanied by chicken & roasted potatoes , salads, breads, ... rusan may not be a visual artist but she holds her own in this talented family with her talents as an artist in the kitchen.
the friendships begun in armenia will continue to grow through e-mail and skype and hopefully the future will hold opportunities to re-meet in person both in armenia and here in the states.
to be continued