MY RELIC galleries channel survival and rebirth from post-genocide trauma

Installations explore role of family heirlooms and collective memories in generating love, endurance, healing and moving forward.

Relics (Photo: Mari Mansourian)

GLENDALE, Calif.—She Loves Collective, an alliance of female artists who share a strong belief in the power of creating social change through art, presents their latest work MY RELIC, three pop-up exhibits from April 11th-April 25th. Following COVID-19 guidelines, these exhibits will be viewable from the windowscapes located at 117, 123, and 127 North Artsakh Avenue, a pedestrian friendly paseo in downtown Glendale. 

After being awarded the City of Glendale Arts and Culture Commission Armenian Genocide Remembrance Month grant in late March, the Collective began creating their vison immediately. Founded by Adrineh Baghdassarian and Nelly Sarkissian, She Loves Collective aims to change the lives of its artists, as well as the lives of those touched by their works, in turn creating art anew. With this in mind, they called on their community to donate old shoes to be repurposed in one of the exhibits and connected with museums and libraries for archived Armenian relics. Collective members and local artists came together to produce their own works incorporating these relic images and concepts. Wheat and lentil seeds were sprouted to be later incorporated in one of the pieces symbolizing the overall themes of rebirth and  growth. Local bakeries were called upon to sponsor and donate Armenian flatbread (lavash) as the main medium for one of the three exhibits. 

Reclamation (Photo: Jake Hagopian)

“Through the embodied engagement of the community, She Loves Collective aims to reclaim a new narrative for trauma post-genocide: one that focuses not on reproducing hate, melancholy or pain, but on generating love, endurance and life-giving creativity,” explained Baghdassarian. 

MY RELIC is presented in a non-traditional exhibition format—three pop-up shops hosting temporary exhibitions viewable 24 hours a day. Day or night, spectators will experience each pop-up differently. 

As visitors peek inside each windowscape, they will explore the ability to heal, move forward and grow through a variety of themes broadly construed as “relics.” Translating the concept from the lexicon of the sacred and historical, relics are also non-static objects, ever-living, that narrate and construct our subjectivities anew. In each installation, relics are considered through the concept of breaking bread, items passed down through generations and reclamation. Activating the collective memories of hundreds of participants as they are called upon to contribute their “relics” of genocide to the larger communal exhibition, MY RELIC seeks to activate and amplify the voices and memories of genocide and similar traumas. 

Los Angeles County has deemed the month of April as Armenian History Month, celebrating the tremendous efforts and accomplishments of the Armenian people. However, the Armenian Genocide committed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire goes unrecognized by the United States government. As 90-percent of She Loves Collective members identify as Armenian, many of which are direct descendants of those who were exterminated in 1915, this particular exhibition is their cry for recognition, acknowledgment and proof that the Armenian people will never give up. Moreover, the unprovoked aggression and destruction waged by Azerbaijan and Turkey on the Armenian enclave of Artsakh in September of 2020, culminated into a 44-day war that resulted in the Armenian people’s loss of ancestral homelands and death of thousands of volunteer soldiers and civilians and served as another attempt to eradicate the Armenian people from their ancestral homelands. 

“We dedicate this work to the Armenian people of Artsakh and Armenia, and every Armenian living in the diaspora,” stated MY RELIC producer Ani Nina Oganyan. “Genocide is a word Armenians know far too well, and it is a core aspect of our identity. With this work we hope to generate a new narrative, that we are not victims, we are survivors, and we will never be silenced,” she continued. 

The collective is always looking for new members to join and become part of their larger goals of empowering women through art. To learn more about our work and stay informed, follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter).

Breaking Bread (Photo: Jack Hagopian)

This article is a press release submitted to the Armenian Weekly. If your organization has news it would like to submit to the paper for consideration, please email us at [email protected].

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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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