Chicago artist marks centennial of Armenian killings with Guernica-size work

Mon Mar 23, 2015 9:17pm EDT
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By Tracy Rucinski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - One hundred years after the mass killing of Armenians, a Chicago artist has created a monumental painting to honor the victims and celebrate a culture that nearly vanished.

The 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman troops became a defining element of Armenian national identity.

Seeking to promote awareness of the tragedy and Armenian culture, Chicago-based artist Jackie Kazarian embarked on a painting of enormous scale in an endeavor called Project 1915.

The painting, which Kazarian has titled Armenia (Hayastan), will be displayed for the first time in Chicago's Mana Contemporary gallery from April 17 to May 29.

The work is a semi-abstract landscape splashed with bold images and text from ancient Armenian maps and church architecture, united by a pattern of needle lace by Kazarian's Armenian-born grandmother and with colors and symbols from illuminated manuscripts.

Kazarian, who has Armenian roots, drew on Pablo Picasso's epic painting Guernica, which depicts the horror of a northern Spanish village's bombing during Spain's civil war, for her painting.

It is the same size as Guernica at 11.5 feet by 26 feet.

"No one would have known what happened in Guernica if it wasn't for that painting," Kazarian said.   Continued...

Artist Jackie Kazarian poses for a portrait in front of her painting for "Project 1915", a commemorative piece marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, in Chicago, Illinois, March 23, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young