A panel of paintings at the exhibition (photo Aram Arkun)

‘Soaring’: Ani Babaian’s Art Exhibited at Armenian Cultural Foundation

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ARLINGTON, Mass. — On Saturday, May 13, the Armenian Cultural Foundation (ACF) in Arlington, MA, hosted a charming solo art exhibition titled “Soaring” displaying the latest works of Ani Babaian. Visitors had the opportunity to explore new realms, guided by the magical power of colors and engagement with profound emotions evoked by the artwork on display.

Ani Babaian (photo Aram Arkun)

The collection of artworks reflects the artist’s own journey of self-discovery and growth. “Soaring” is Babaian’s third solo exhibition, following her first solo exhibition of paintings at Gallery Classic of Isfahan in 2008 and her second exhibition titled “The Spectrum of a Legacy” at the Adele and Haig Der Manuelian Gallery of the Armenian Museum of America in 2016. She has also participated in group exhibitions in various locations, including Isfahan and Tehran in Iran, Yerevan in Armenia, and several cities in the United States such as Massachusetts (Lowell, Lexington, Watertown), New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Maine since 1994.

Dr. Ara Ghazarians, curator of the ACF, opened the exhibit and gave some background information about the ACF, which a few years ago celebrated its 75th anniversary, and the history of its support by the Mirak family.

Ani Babaian then greeted the audience and provided a brief introduction to the event. She expressed her excitement and gratitude upon seeing all the art lovers and supporters present and conveyed her deep appreciation of Dr. Ghazarians for providing her with this incredible opportunity to showcase her artwork in such an exquisite venue.

“Legacy #10” (Mixed-media on canvas, 30”x30″)

She acknowledged a few individuals who played significant roles in making the exhibition possible: Anna Nazarian for generously assisting Ani with the details of the exhibition, particularly the reception, and David Elizian and David Medzorian for their documentation of the opening. Finally, Ani expressed her gratitude to Artscope Magazine for a preview of her exhibition in its issue of May/June 2023.

“Soaring #1” (Mixed-media and gold leaf on canvas, 32”x42”)

Babaian dedicated her work “Soaring” to her late parents, who served as her inspiration, encouragement, and provided a nurturing environment for her creative pursuits. “My parents played a crucial role in fostering my creativity. Growing up in New Julfa, a historically significant Armenian community which is part of Isfahan in Iran, she said, “I was fortunate to have parents who wholeheartedly supported and motivated me to follow my passion and forge my own path in art education. During those times, pursuing an art degree at university was seen as absurd and a waste of time within our community.”

“Legacy #12” (Mixed-media on canvas, 30”x30”)

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In particular, she said, “I vividly remember the immense excitement I felt when my father constructed a new house for our family on the corner of West Nazar Ave. and Khoja Petros Ave. It was a turning point in my artistic journey. Later on, I was granted my own studio in that house, which eventually became officially recognized by the Ministry of Culture as Arpi Studio.”

“Legacy #9” (Mixed-media on canvas, 30”x30”)

Though her father died at the young age of 50, while Ani, 22 years old, was preparing to write her thesis, her mother and other strong women of her family buoyed her with their resilience, and perhaps not by coincidence, the exhibition’s opening date is her mother’s birthday, as well as the day before Mother’s Day. Ani said that for this reason she dedicated the exhibition to all strong Armenian women, especially those in Artsakh under blockade.

She said that her style is defined by her identity, thoughts, personal experiences and beauty that she found around her. She recalled that her friend Shushan Teager’s encouraging voice to paint in a way reflecting who she really was continually inspires her.

Ani concluded by saying, “I hope viewers will find meaning and inspiration in my art. I always believed that art has the power to connect people, and I am excited to connect with the audience through this exhibition.”

The exhibition included 49 pieces from the series “Soaring,” “Untold Stories of Grandma’s Quilt,” “More than Words,” and “Legacy.” Within each artwork, hidden narratives and layers of symbolism await discovery. What at first appears from a distance as an abstract design warrants closer attention. The artist’s meticulous attention to detail encourages viewers to delve deeper into the pieces, unearthing their hidden meanings and unraveling the stories they hold.

Her works are very bright and colorful. Many of their titles telegraph their intent to connect with heritage. Armenian themes like the “Wishing Tree” present the viewer with time-old customs, while many of the women in her works appear to be wearing traditional Armenian dress. There is some Persian influence as well in her worldview, and of course it is all done in a modern and expressive manner.

After Ani’s talk, audience members had the opportunity to discuss various aspects of her art with her directly. The exhibition remained on view from May 13 to May 26, with over 300 visitors.

Babaian is an independent researcher, artist and art conservator who holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Alzahra University in Tehran. She is a fine arts painter who works in mixed media. She also has worked on numerous conservation projects, including the murals at the historic 17th century St. Amenaprkich Vank [Holy Savior Cathedral] in New Julfa, Isfahan, murals painting in the Museum of Decorative Arts of Isfahan, paintings of Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston, and others.

She is the curator of the Mardigian Library of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), where she has worked since 2013.

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