WATERTOWN, Mass. — Margarita Avetian started painting at the age of 85. Two years later, her vibrant paintings are now on display in her first art exhibition at the Watertown Free Public Library. The exhibit, entitled “Margarita’s Garden,” had its opening reception on Sunday.
Born in 1935, Avetian was the second oldest child born to a mother orphaned during the Armenian Genocide and raised by an aunt after surviving and arriving in Armenia. Avetian helped with her siblings’ upbringing beginning at age five with the start of World War II, forgoing her own education. Her daughter Seda Matevosian told the Weekly that even at that young age, her mother used to go out to the fields and gather whatever she could to help feed the family. The family immigrated to Georgia when Avetian was 12 years old.
Avetian married at a young age, having her first child at 17 years old. Sadly, her husband passed away at the young age of 50. She raised six children and ultimately settled with her family in Watertown. Now, she also enjoys spending time with her seven grandchildren.
After the 2020 war in Artsakh, Avetian’s daughters were concerned about their mother’s mental health and encouraged her to take up painting. “She was hooked and inspired,” enthused Matevosian, who is an artist and an art teacher. “My mom’s work is in the tradition of naïve art and is filled with light, tranquility, peace and simple beauty!”
Matevosian shared that it all began with a paint night she organized in her home for the women in the family. “That was the first time she touched painting,” Matevosian said of her mother. “That night, everyone did a beautiful job, but even then, my mom’s work was different. She followed her own style, creating a unique piece,” she reflected.
After organizing another paint night at her mother’s building with her neighbors, it became evident that Avetian’s work set her apart from the others. When Matevosian shared some of her mother’s art on social media, it received rave reviews, and even some comparisons to American folk artist Grandma Moses, who started painting when she was 78 years old.
“I have no formal training in art,” said Avetian. “To my surprise, it has helped me partially heal the wounds of my world. I mainly paint flowers, because I’ve always admired the beauty of each species, and they represent the fragility of life to me.”
Avetian starts a painting by filling the background with color and then focusing on the intricacy of the leaves and flowers. “I get lost in the creative process and forget about the harsh reality we live in,” she said. “When I paint, I feel inner peace and believe that one day beauty will and should save the world!”
Her art and this exhibition in Watertown are dedicated to the heroes who bravely sacrificed their lives to protect the homeland and the loved ones they left behind. Avetian is donating the proceeds to benefit the wounded soldiers of the 2020 war.
She was gratified to sell six paintings at the opening reception and was overwhelmed with emotion as people viewed and admired her work. “Art has healing power,” Avetian said. “I’ll be happy if my paintings resonate the same feelings in the viewers as mine while I’m creating them – happiness, peace and love towards each other and everything around us.”
“Margarita’s Garden” will be on display at the T. Ross Kelly Family Gallery at the Watertown Free Public Library, located at 123 Main Street, until March 31.
These paintings are delightful. What an inspiring person and story! Thank you for writing about her.