Massachusetts State House to Display Photographs of Armenian Genocide Survivors

One week exhibit by Ara Oshagan and Levon Parian

WATERTOWN–The Massachusetts State House will display “iwitness,” a unique photography exhibit of portraits of Armenian Genocide survivors with their oral histories. The exhibit is free and open to the public and will take place from March 23 through March 27, 2009, in Doric Hall at the Massachusetts State House.

Hosted by State Representative Jonathan Hecht (Middlesex 29) and sponsored by the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) and the Armenian National Committee of Massachusetts (ANCMA), “iwitness” is the work of Los Angeles-based photographers Ara Oshagan and Levon Parian. The exhibit pairs powerful black-and-white portraits of Armenian Genocide survivors with their oral histories.

Photographer Levon Parian will lead a guided tour of the exhibit on Tuesday, March 24.

Oshagan and Parian worked with a team of oral historians and created “iwitness” as part of The Genocide Project, which aims to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide through visual and oral documentation.

“We wanted to do something to somehow artistically reflect upon the Genocide,” says Oshagan. “Even though we’re three generations removed from the actual fact, it is still very much part of our community and part of our consciousness.”

“iwitness” will be accompanied by ALMA’s traveling Genocide exhibit, which combines statistics and other accounts in text and photographs in an effort to educate the public about the first Genocide of the 20th century.

The one week display will then travel to ALMA, where it will be exhibited in the Museum’s Bedoukian Hall from Thursday, April 2 through May 2009.

About Ara Oshagan

Ara Oshagan has photographed extensively in Nagorno-Karabagh for a book project with his father, well-known author, Vahe Oshagan. Featured in Photo District News, the book is scheduled to be published by Powerhouse Books in 2009. His work from Karabagh also took third place in the prestigious Visions 2001 National Photographic Project Competition sponsored by the Santa Fe Center for the Visual Arts.

Working with the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Oshagan received a California Council on the Humanities Major Grant in 2001 to photograph the Armenian experience of Los Angeles. This work, called “Traces of Identity,” was exhibited at the LA Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park from September to December 2004 and is currently on view at the Downey Museum of Art.

Oshagan also worked in collaboration with Leslie Neale of Chance Films on Juvies, a project documenting high-risk juvenile offenders being tried as adults in California.

Oshagan’s work is in the permanent collection of the Downey Musuem of Art in Downey, California and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yerevan, Armenia.

He currently lives in southern California with his wife Anahid and four sons.

About Levon Parian

Levon Parian is an artist who works in the medium of photography to project his ideas and concerns. He is best known for his series of nudes printed on emulsion coated metal plates like the Ferro-type process developed in the late 1800’s (tintypes). Some of his on going projects include; a book entitled Lost Memories a series of short stories and water-damaged pictures from his childhood. And “i Witness” a series of photographic portraits of survivors from the 1915 Armenian Genocide in collaboration with Ara Oshagan and The Genocide Project. These photos have been displayed in city halls, galleries and museums and most recently have been launched into a program to help teachers teach the Armenian Genocide in the Los Angeles Unified school district. His current work involves experimentation with stereo (3-D) film and still cameras and viewers. His subject incorporates “the male gaze” and the complexities of human interactions.

Levon studied art photography in 1977 at Southern Illinois University and commercial photography in 1980 at Art Center in Pasadena, CA. He freelance assisted for Playboy, Helmut Newton, and Alice Springs for three years before starting his own photography business in 1984. He completed his Master of Fine Art Degree at California State University, Northridge in 2008 and is currently on the faculty there.

Parian specializes in people photography and photomontage. His works have been exhibited throughout the world and have received numerous awards. Parian’s clients include MGM, DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, Columbia/Tri-Star, Capital Records, PolyGram Records, Epic Records, Electra, Toyota and others.

His work is in the following collections: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Library of Congress, Paradjanov Museum, Museum of Modern Art in Yerevan, Museum of Photography in Paris, Southern Illinois Univeristy Museum and The Downey Museum of Art in Los Angeles. His books “Nudes” and "Scopophilia" are available for purchase at Abril.com.

He currently lives in Tujunga, CA with his wife Maro (an artist of theatre in her own right) and two children Arthur and Sona both 10 years old.

About Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA)

Founded in 1971, ALMA’s mission is to present and preserve the culture, history, art and contributions of the Armenian people to Americans and Armenia’s alike. Since its inception, ALMA’s collection has grown to over 26,000 books and 20,000 artifacts, making it perhaps the largest and most diverse holding of Armenian cultural artifacts outside of Armenia. As a repository for heirlooms, the collection now represents a major resource not only for Armenian studies research, but as well as for preservation and illustration of the Armenian heritage. In 1988, ALMA acquired a 30,000 square foot facility in Watertown, MA ‘s one of North America’s oldest and most active Armenian communities. The facility includes exhibition galleries, Library, administrative offices, function hall, climate-controlled vaults and conservation lab.

ALMA is the only independent Armenian Museum in the Diaspora funded solely through contributions of individual supporters. An active Board of Trustees and volunteer base augmen’s the museum’s staff. The Museum maintains an active schedule of changing exhibits. In addition, the museum sponsors lecture and presentation program on related topics. The Library is used primarily by researchers and interested general public.

For more information visit http://www.almainc.org/

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