Armenia Applauds Hejinian Art Exhibit

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By Tom Vartabedian

CHELMSFORD, Mass. and YEREVAN — Chelmsford (MA) Artist Daniel Varoujan Hejinian is not one to sit idle very long, not when his heritage is at stake.

Weeks after his annual billboard blitz throughout Greater Boston and watching the monument he designed dedicated in Lowell, off he went to Yerevan for a personal exhibit at the National Gallery of Armenia.

Called “ Peace of Art” (www.peaceofart.org), the exhibition was part of the Fifth Armenia-Diaspora Conference organized by the Republic Ministry of Diaspora dedicated to the 23rd anniversary of Armenian Independence and the centennial of the Armenian Genocide being celebrated in 2015.

Some 2,000 guests piled into the National Gallery to view the artist’s work, including Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan, Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobyan, leaders and representatives of Diasporan Armenian organizations, public and political figures as well as artists of every kind.

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According to the artist, it was a cultural infusion that left viewers with an indelible impression.

“I’m truly grateful for having this opportunity to exhibit some of my best work in a country where my passion exists,” said Hejinian. “The people here were most receptive. Everywhere I went, hospitality followed. The honor truly lies with all those who made this moment become a reality.”

For openers, Hejinian was welcomed to the Presidential Palace by First Lady Rita Sargisian, where he donated a triptych titled “From Genocide to Independence.” Other contributions were made to the National Gallery, Ministry of Diaspora, Government of Armenia and Ministry of Culture.

Hejinian received the prestigious Arshile Gorky Medal by Hakobyan as a token of his country’s appreciation.

Karen Aghamyan, president, Union of Artists of Armenia, granted an honorary membership certificate to the artist.

Hejinian’s portrait graced the cover of Elite Life Magazine published in Armenia, together with more photos and an extensive story inside.

Three showrooms inside the gallery housed the exhibit, featuring 61 works of art in all. The array included 40 graphic pieces and 21 paintings, including two triptychs. Aside from the “Genocide to Independence” panel, there was another titled “Crime of the Century,” which Hejinian dedicated to the centennial observance, along with other Peace of Art collectables from his romantic series.

Hejinian was born to a family of Armenians who survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and took shelter in Syria. Since childhood, he has heard stories of the brutal massacres and had seen it repeatedly through the eyes of his parents.

Since 1996, he has raised signs annually throughout Massachusetts commemorating the Genocide, many times under duress and receiving retaliation from Turkish deniers. Despite the resistance, Hejinian has preserved with his billboard mission, funding the project out of his own pocket.

Among the artwork exhibited was “Hands of a Mother” after which a design was sculptured from stone and placed at the foot of City Hall in Lowell, Mass. — the first such Genocide memorial on government land in the United States.

The compelling memorial was designed for the Armenian Genocide Monument Committee of Merrimack Valley, symbolizing the city’s mill era and the immigrants who toiled there following the massacre.

The design shows two hands weaving fabric above an Armenian stone cross (khatchkar), designed to represent the hopes and dreams of those who survived the atrocity and those whom paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“Love for his homeland, family, nature and heritage prevails in all of his artwork,” commended Hakobyan. “Just as the great writer Daniel Varoujan portrayed the sorrow of Armenians in his work, so has the artist with his brushstrokes. The two are mutually connected by their art form.”

Among those attending the ceremony was Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, who served as honorary chairman of the Lowell memorial dedication. Koutoujian presented his opening remarks and expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Diaspora for the invitation to participate.

The sheriff proudly spoke of his compatriot, lauding his artistic talents and the message they convey the world about the crime perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks in the early 20th Century.

Art Critic Shahen Khachatryan spoke about Hejinian’s paintings and praised the artist’s unique style and high mastery in the medium.

In the end, Hejinian expressed his gratitude to the Ministry and Hakobyan in particular for turning his dream of having a personal exhibition in the Homeland into reality. He also conveyed gratitude to his wife and daughter for encouraging him to organize the exhibition and invited participants to the event.

All three showrooms in the National Gallery were agog with visitors. The first was dedicated to the 100th anniversary, including pieces from Hejinian’s collection which reflect human suffering of every magnitude.

Hejinian’s romantic works occupied a second exhibition room while a third gallery focused on independence, including a striking image of doves flying in a peaceful sky while the Armenian army a glorious parade.

“The most significant achievement of independence is the creation of the Armenian army,” Hejinian feels.

The exhibition took place September 18 to October 20.

According to the artist Martiros, “Varoujan is a master of color and composition, flexible, diverse and honest with his interpretation. He’s a brilliant representative of 21st-century art.”

The artist dedicates his efforts to the peace keepers and peace achievers around the world and those who had the courage to place themselves on the line for the betterment of humanity.