BY ANAHID ANNA PINEDJIAN
On the evening of Saturday, November 7, 2009, a large crowd from the Armenian community attended a tribute event dedicated to internationally renowned artist Emil Kazaz, held at the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s Alex Manoogian Center in Pasadena.
The Kazaz tribute and three-day exhibition event was organized by the AGBU of Southern California District Committee. Cooperation for the exhibition was provided by Monet Airian, Director of the Airian Dome of Fine Art, Inc., representing Emil Karaz worldwide.
Also in attendance were many distinguished guests, including Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, California State Assemblymenber Paul Krikorian, Dean of Alfred University’s School of Art and Design in New York Joe Lewis, art historian Shahen Khachtryan, internationally renowned pianist Vatche Mankerian, operatic tenor of the Komitas Conservatory of Yerevan University Bakur Kalantaryan, representatives from the Armenian media and other leaders of the community.
Haig Messerlian, chaiman of the Kazaz tribute committee, served as Master of Ceremonies. In his opening remarks, he welcomed the audience and said, “Art is an integral part of any culture. Emil Kazaz is a genius artist of Armenian descent. His puffy brush created an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures, with characters that express aspects of his unique style of artistic imagination. His genius mind’s ability to produce the vision for his artwork is innately given by God. In this particular event, we are proud to honor the distinguished guest Emil Kazaz as a hero for our nation for his artistic achievements. His creations are innovative art pieces, adding to the world cultural heritage. In the last two centuries, works by many internationally renowned artists of Armenian descent, such as Aivazovsky, Arshile Gorky, Martiros Saryan, Carzou and talented singer Charles Aznavour, have emerged. Their legacies are well known, enhancing the continuity of the world cultural treasure.”
The event featured speeches by special guests. Mr. Meserlian invited Joe Lewis, the keynote speaker, to present a brief background of honored guest Emil Kazaz as a talented artist. Lewis said, “Emil Kazaz, at a very young age in his home town, Gyumri, loved art, and his mother, as an actress, continually encouraged him. Kazaz, after graduating from the Art Institute of Yerevan, came to Los Angeles and continued to create. As an artist and educator, through my comprehensive survey of his paintings and sculptures, I reassert that the art and the philosophy of Kazaz are creative. He used the past trends of all earlier art, including that of the Italian Renaissance, only to shed light on his work, a new genre, more real, which integrates them into a fresh way of seeing. The powerful legacy of his artwork, comparing and contrasting mythical creatures and figures of half-human beings and animals, combined with an harmonic agreement, helps people to enjoy the physical reality of his work and keeps them intrigued. So Kazaz is an artist as social realist, creating things no one created before. His unique imagination makes him a real artist. I would like to express my gratitude. I was enslaved by his art and adored this great artist; for him, the whole world is combined between old world and new, the beauty and love which are his ultimate goal.”
Western Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian was then invited to offer his remarks. The Primate relayed the blessings of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and invited to the podium the distinguished guest Emil Kazaz. He pinned to his chest the St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Gold Medal, which is issued by the Catholicos, and then presented a Pontifical Encyclical for his unique talent and artistic achievement. In his remarks, the Primate explained the name Emil as Emanuel, which originated from the word for “Son of God.” He said, “Almighty God granted him divine wisdom. A few months ago, during my visitations to his exhibition, I admired his creative artworks which are a reflection of his love for humanity. His artistic heritage is not only a national treasure, but also a treasure for the whole world as symbolizing ‘love.’”
The art historian of Armenia, Shahen Khachtryan, in his remarks reflected on the significance of the evening and said, “It is a happy day for all of us. Who would ever have imagined on a day like this we would be here in Los Angeles to honor a great artist of Armenian descent from Gumri, where the earthquake of 1988 struck and destroyed it. But today his artistic achievements inspired us with hope to revive this city, which was the rich center of art. Emil Kazaz has earned from the Florence Biennale the prestigious Lorenzo Medici Medal in 2003 and the Grande Lorenzo Il Magnifico (Medici) Prize in sculpture in 2007. His artistic achievement is a source of national pride,” Khachtryan said. “I am privileged and pleased to join with you this evening and express heartfelt thanks to AGBU for organizing this wonderful event.”
Following the speeches portion of the evening program, the audience enjoyed musical entertainment, which was provided by pianist Vatche Mankerian, who performed several selected musical pieces by Chaconne, Bach, and Busoni. Operatic tenor Kalantarian, with his powerful voice, performed perfectly a number of songs, inspiring the audience to show their appreciation with joyful applause.
On behalf of AGBU President Berge Setrakian, Sinan Sinanian, a member of the AGBU Central Board of Directors, presented to the honored guest, Emil Kazaz, the President’s Award for his outstanding artistic talent and contribution to Armenian and to world culture.