Chicago painter Jackie Kazarian is creating a painting of enormous scale both in size and subject matter to memorialize the 20th century’s first genocide, which began in April 1915 and led to the death and displacement of millions of Armenians.
At almost 12 feet tall and 27 feet long, “Project 1915” is the exact size as Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” which also referenced another notorious crime against humanity: Francisco Franco’s aerial bombing of a defenseless civilian population in the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish civil war in 1937.
Unlike Guernica, Project 1915 will dwell less on the horrors of war and instead celebrate the richness and resilience of the Armenian culture. Kazarian hopes the painting will foster a dialogue about genocide, tolerance, and forgiveness.
“By embracing the truth and releasing the anger and sadness that still afflicts the Armenian Diaspora, we can move forward in a more accepting and tolerant way,” said Kazarian. “It’s really about human dignity.”
Project 1915 draws source material from Armenian culture and religion, and from historic maps, photos, and other documents, as well as memorabilia from Kazarian’s childhood. Both of her grandmothers were genocide survivors.
Several studies done for Project 1915 are scheduled for exhibition in Chicago and Boston this spring. The painting will be finished in time for official commemorative activities in April 2015.
Kazarian plans to exhibit the painting in multiple locations across the United States and the world before donating it to a cultural organization that can provide a permanent home.
“As with any art that references a painful past, Project 1915 is about remembering, surviving, and healing,” she said, adding, “Every culture needs it.”
Studies and a video about the painting are available at www.project1915.org.