The global economic meltdown has diminished any hopes artist

extraordinaire Avedis Baghsarian had held of staging an exhibition of his

latest works.

    "According   to   the   galleries   and   art   experts   conditions   are   so   bad   that   they   claim   you   can purchase   masterpieces   such   as   Picasso's,   for   1/4   the   price   of   their   estimated   value,"   he told   this   correspondent,   echoing   the   current   feeling   in   the   worldwide   financial   market. But   despite   the   setback,   Avedis   remains   undaunted.   And   on   the   go.   Although   in   his   mid seventies, he still keeps himself busy and his keen eyes miss nothing.             "I   strongly   believe   an   active   mind   is   the   best   way   to   stay   young   and   healthy,   because creativity helps us renew our brain cells," he concurred.             The   renowned   former   Jerusalemite   has   found   a   home   and   a niche   in   Southampton,   where   he   has   ample   opportunity   to hone    his    multifaceted    skills    in    photography,    architecture, industrial design and lately sculpture.                For   kaghakatsi Armenians,   sculpture   has   been   an   esoteric facility,    one    they    admire    mainly    from    a    distance.    Only    a handful    have    had    the    tenacity    to    experiment    with    clay, metal,     or     stone.    Alas,     we     have     no     records     of     their achievements   -   a   sad   commentary   on   this   otherwise   vibrant community.             That   is   one   mistake   our   contemporary   artists   will   never make. Artists like Avedis Baghsarian.             He   has   tried   his   hands   at   a   wide   range   of   arts   from photography   to   architecture,   reflecting   his   eclectic   talents. But it is for sculptor that he has now found a long lost love.             Sculptor,   architect,   photographer,   industrial   designer   ...   all   reflect   the   eclectic   talents of Avedis Baghsarian          It's   a   long   way   from   the   cobblestoned   alleys   of   the Armenian   Quarter   of   the   Old   City   of Jerusalem,   the   setting   he   credits   with   making   him   feel   the   first   stirrings   of   an   artistic spirit.      Despite   the   acclaim   and   accomplishment,   he   remains   a   "kaghakatsi"   at   heart,   that enterprising   breed   of   individuals   reared   in   the   Armenian   Quarter   (where   most   people knew   him   as   Hanno   or   Hovannes),   who   have   enriched   the   cultural   heritage   of   the   region with their contributions, particularly in art and literature.          His   first   foray   was   in   photography   at   one   of   the   leading   Armenian   practitioners   of   the craft   in   town   -   but   it   was   in   the   US,   after   his   discharge   from   the   Army,   that   he   began   to hone   his   art   to   perfection.   His   work   earned   him   accolades   across   the   country   but   there was   always   something   more   challenging   beyond,   and   he   soon   turned   his   hand   to   other mediums   and   disciplines.   (In   the   meantime,   he   took   enormous   joy   in   designing   his   own house)             One   of   the   table   top   vases   he   created,   has   found   its   way   into   the   Jerusalem   Museum   of Art.   But   he   has   also   carved   out   a   name   for   himself   in   over   a   score   of   prestigious museums,    including    New   York's    Guggenheim,    San    Francisco's    Metropolitan    and    Kobi's Museum of Art.             Avedis   recalls   the   pleasant   surprise   he   got   in   1993   when   Interior   Design   Magazine honored him for his "Satellite Collection." Others had taken note of him as well.             "Some   people   from   a   Jewish   organization   in   New   York   City   found   out   that   I   was   born   in Jerusalem   and   I   was   asked   if   I   would   like   to   contribute   a   vase   for   a   silent   auction   for   the benefit of the museum," he told this correspondent.             "About   6   months   later   a   manufacturer   of   home   furnishings   from   Israel   who   had   seen the   piece   in   Jerusalem,   and   came   to   my   showroom   and   asked   to   be   my   exclusive distributing   agent   -   he   placed   a   very   large   order   -   but   I   have   not   heard   from   him   since and   I   can't   tell   how   successful   he   was   with   my   products,"   he   said.   When   he   moved   to   his second   home,   he   discovered   he   had   a   landscape   that   was   perfect   for   a   new   experience, and that gave him his start in environmental sculpture.            The   Hamptons   where   he   has   his   home   is   a   very   unique   place,   he   notes.   Because   it   is   an island   and   surrounded   by   water,   light   reflects   in   a   special   way   and   gives   an   unusual   glow to the landscape.            Avedis   believes   he   has   been   more   successful   with   his   Manhattan   skyline   sculptures   than with   other   works.   He   started   creating   them   after   9/11,   and   held   an   exhibition   on   the first anniversary of that horrendous day.            The   skyline   effect   is   achieved   by   multiple   layers   of   building   facades   scored   on   styrene: each   building   is   individually   scored,   colored   and   cut   by   hand   into   shapes   to   simulate certain existing structures in that particular district of Manhattan, Avedis explains.             His   intention   has   not   been   to   duplicate   the   actual   buildings   but   rather   interpret   their aesthetic   vision.   With   his   outdoor   sculptures,   mostly   based   on   motifs   taken   from   nature, Avedis   has   created   an   appealing   set   of   effects   culminating   in   3D   dioramas   that   seem   to exude life.             Grasshoppers,   birds,   frogs   and   snails   are   captured   in   natural   finish   steel   or   powder- coated steel, perched in settings that are a producer's dream             He   notes   that   his   work   is   reminiscent   of   the   oriental   art   form   of   origami   which   utilizes a different medium, paper.                 "I    call    my    creations    'metalgami'    because    they    are    folded    metal,"    he    told    one interviewer.             One   of   the   most   moving   sculptures   is   a   three-piece   representation   of   wild   geese   in flight,   titled   "Migration."   Their   craning   necks   reaching   up   to   the   skies,   the   geese   are poised for immediate flight, the illusion created by the slanted angle of the bodies.             "Curvaceous"   is   the   way   one   gallery   owner   has   described   these   outdoor   sculptures. "When you see them, you want to touch them," he is quoted as saying.             Lately   and   specially   during   the   winter   months,   Avedis   has   begun   creating   videos   of images   he   had   photographed   during   summer   and   winter   months.   Eschewing   elaborate motion   picture   apparatus,   he   has   opted   for   a   simple   digital   camera   in   capturing   these sights and sounds.             "The   challenge   for   me   is   not   the   quality   of   the   images   but   rather   in   finding   and incorporating   the   proper   music   to   the   images   that   interest   me.   I   find   it   very   relaxing   and it releases some of my creative energy," he told this correspondent.            Avedis   has   been   lucky   in   more   ways   than   one:   his   wife, Arsho,   is   an   equally   renowned artist,   a   footwear   designer   who   has   spent   a   "colorful   career"   designing   for   such   names   as Christian   Dior   and   Stuart   Weitzman.   Last   year,   she   was   inducted   by   America's   leading footwear   publication,   Footwear   News,   into   its   Hall   of   Fame   for   her   lifetime   achievement (45 years).             The   couple's   support   for   each   other   has   been   instrumental   in   helping   them   further their different careers, Avedis concedes.
Armenian Jerusalem
This project has been supported by the Gulbenkian philanthropic Foundation, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and members of the worldwide Armenian community. Reproductions of the genealogical documents [domar’s] are courtesy Photo Garo, Jerusalem. Copyright © 2007 Arthur Hagopian