‘Sacred Space’ Exhibit at SCSU Memorializes Genocide Victims

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Through July 9, 2015, Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) will host “Ashfall,” an art installation and exhibit by Dallas-based artist Robert Barsamian that poignantly tells the story of the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

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Ashfall,” an art installation and exhibit by artist Robert Barsamian

A 16’x16’ structure erected within the university’s Buley Library gallery space with the help of Southern art students, “Ashfall” contains its own lighting and sound system. Inside the structure are portraits on lace, framed by branches—elements from Armenian culture—along with a bench that allows visitors to pause and contemplate the exhibit, which has been called a “sacred space.”

In addition to the structure, the gallery displays text panels that speak to the violence and loss the genocide engendered. A smaller installation in the gallery space, called “Road to Aleppo,” is a boat with a figure lying on a funeral pier, representing the spirits of those who died on the death marches through the Syrian desert to Aleppo. Large drawings on silk are draped behind this piece.

“Ashfall” is open to the public through July 9, and admission is free. The gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 1-4 p.m., or by appointment. For more information about visiting “Ashfall,” which is being displayed in New England for the first time, call (203) 392-5768.

Artist Barsamian grew up in Whitinsville, Mass., the son and grandson of survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. In the 1990’s, Barsamian recalled the stories his grandmother had told him about her experiences escaping the genocide, and became inspired to depict such atrocities in his art. He eventually began to create art installations to convey the feeling of inhumane acts perpetrated by man against man and began expressing the injustices of the genocide with his multimedia installations. “Ashfall” is one such installation.

An opening reception for “Ashfall” on April 24 was one of several events held at Southern to mark the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. On April 23, the SCSU Symphonic Band presented a concert entitled “Music of Armenia,” featuring folk music by composers Hovhaness, Reed, Khachaturian, Komitas, and Strauss. The following day, guest musicians Anna Hayrapetyan and Tatev Amiryan performed a recital featuring pieces connected specifically with the genocide theme by Armenian composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Komitas, Mirzonyan, Kanachyan, and Amiryan.

“Southern’s commitment to social justice is very much animated by the recognition of man’s inhumanity to man,” said SCSU President Mary A. Papazian. “The Centenary of the Armenian Genocide gives us pause to recall the mass suffering that occurred at that time and at other periods throughout history. By remembering the past, we can work to build a better future for all.”

“Art and music are highly effective media to tell this heart-wrenching story and touch our emotions,” Papazian said.

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Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.
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