WORCESTER — The opening of the Gallery of Enamel Art with the exhibit “Mary Aroian, 40+ Years of Color,” took place on September 14 and 15. Artist Aroian and her two sons Raffi and Mihran hosted approximately 200 visitors over the two days, according to the gallery’s website, in the one-room space.
Mary Aroian has a long history as an artist. She was born in Sultanabad, Iran in 1931, and moved with her parents to Tehran. Her father was an Iranian-Armenian rug dealer, while her mother came to Iran from Istanbul. As a young child, Mary used to go around and sketch what she saw in a sketchbook. Her parents, seeing this, encouraged her to develop her artistic talents as a child by hiring tutors for her. She submitted her dossier to the Vesper George School of Art in Boston and was accepted there, she said jokingly, 500 years ago. It was actually in the early 1950s, and she studied there two years, receiving an associate of arts degree. She later went to Boston University for graduate studies in art. She got married to Van Aroian in 1957 and had two boys.
Mary continued to do oil painting but developed an allergic reaction which led to her hospitalization and forced her to stop in the late 1950s. Instead, she switched to enamel (glass-on-metal) painting. She tried it at someone’s house and then took lessons at the Worcester Center for Crafts (https://www.worcester.edu/WCC/), where she began creating in the early 1970s. Dating back to 1856, this center is a nonprofit community-based arts organization which provides crafts education and supports artists/artisans. It has been affiliated with Worcester State University since 2009. Aroian also studied enamel art making in Maine at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.
Aroian, despite her age, continues to bring her fifty-pound tool chest to the Center for Crafts in order to realize her creative work and feels at home in its friendly environment. Initially, she said that at her house, “I go downstairs in the basement, and draw the designs for my artwork on paper. I spend two to three hours a day there.” Afterwards, she redraws the design at the Worcester Center, which has its own kiln.
Honee Hess, executive director of the Worcester Center for Crafts, commented recently about Mary Aroian, “It is our good fortune at the Worcester Center for Crafts that when Mary Aroian had to stop oil painting she decided to try her hand at enamels! She is a talented, hardworking enamel artist who loves to tell others about her love of enamels. She uses the intesity of enamel color to its best and her work is a testament to her love of color.”
Mary has traveled to Italy and London to learn more about classical art. She said that she particularly enjoys the works of Impressionist artists. Prior to her marriage she studied art at the Istanbul college Notre Dame de Sion for a year and a half. She also went to China to study enamel art several decades ago.