Camille Gregorian is a devoted wife, daughter and sister—and an artist re-discovering her love of artistic expression while coping with the complexity of grief.Gregorian grew up in a multi-generational home in Providence, Rhode Island, with her father George K. “Frenchy,” mother Virginia and sister Janette, along with her paternal grandmother Calipse Piroumian and Calipse’s sister. Calipse and her husband Manouk Krikorian were Armenian Genocide survivors from Van.
The family moved to Cranston when Gregorian was 10, and that is when she “special ordered” her brother George. She recalled being frustrated with her sister, as happens between young siblings, and asking her mother, “Can’t you have another baby?” Whether or not that request prompted the outcome, Camille was delighted when her brother was born, and the siblings developed a very “tight bond.” “I took him everywhere with me,” she told the Weekly. “I didn’t mind. It wasn’t a burden. I enjoyed it.”
Gregorian would later graduate with a degree in elementary education, minoring in art, at a time when teaching jobs were difficult to attain. Eventually, she landed in the field of clinical social work, for which she earned her graduate degree—a career she enjoyed for more than three decades.
Upon retirement, Gregorian re-discovered her love of creating art, deciding to “try painting a little bit again.” “I always did something creative,” she said. “Whether it was cooking or something else, I always needed to create something interesting to me.”
Gregorian traces her interest in art back to visits she made to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum with her father. “Frenchy,” as he was known, had both a thriving popcorn business that was well-known throughout the state and beyond and a cosmopolitan love of art and film. After their father’s passing, her brother George took over the family business, “Frenchy’s Popcorn,” and thereafter inherited the “Frenchy” moniker.
As she began painting, Gregorian’s focus was on creating something “pretty” or a piece that had “nice colors.” Eventually, she grew into an intuitive style of abstract painting, particularly after participating in a class with an instructor whose approach was to “get to your own voice.” Her art began to more fully express her emotions.
Then, her brother George was hospitalized after contracting COVID-19. Gregorian’s painting began to reflect her accompanying emotions: “I’m scared. I’m angry. I’m frustrated.” One piece, entitled “Vax,” addresses these emotions. “He was so adamant against it and we argued about it…something that should have been innocuous during a health crisis,” she said.
George tragically succumbed to COVID-19 in February of 2022 at the age of 57.
Gregorian said that she could not paint for a while afterwards, between her grief and family obligations, including caring for her mother.
“Little by little, I started to do more,” she said, and that led to her healing journey through art.
By December 2022, Gregorian saw a call for artists from the Attleboro Arts Museum in Attleboro, Massachusetts. She decided to apply and was informed in April 2023 that she was accepted, having been selected from a field of 60 applicants to be one of the final eight juried artists. Her series is entitled, “Love, Loss and Longing.”
“Camille underwent three rounds of jurying to be included in the Attleboro Arts Museum’s ‘8 Visions’ exhibition,” said Mim Brooks Fawcett, executive director and chief curator at the museum. “She was in a pool of over 60 artists when the process first began. One of the jurors was drawn to her ‘beautiful compositions that are tenderly rendered.’ Her work stood out for its layers of meaning and gentle storytelling.”
“2023’s 8 Visions artists present works that examine the human condition, fragile and ever changing states, and personal connections to spaces and places. Additionally, through the manipulation of classic and unexpected materials, viewers will find an emphasis on the natural world and the passage of time,” Brooks Fawcett explained.
Gregorian’s paintings immediately attract attention in the exhibit. The combination of colors and layers of texture invite the viewer’s exploration and perusal. Each time a piece is examined, additional layers become evident, including collage, stencils and family photographs included through a photo transfer process. Gregorian uses acrylic paints, oil sticks, crayons, markers and more to create her mixed media works.
“Camille’s artwork directs viewers through a combination of personal moments and vibrant visual marks. She is a sensitive artist that feels her way through the creative process and shares openly with the public,” said Brooks Fawcett.
One of the paintings, “Yellow Gold,” is an homage to her father’s, and later her brother’s, business. As one who grew up enjoying “Frenchy’s Popcorn” everywhere from Roger Williams Park Zoo to church bazaars and picnics at Camp Haiastan, the piece evoked many wonderful childhood memories.
Gregorian’s art is powerful and especially poignant given the inspiration. “It wasn’t just the sadness,” Gregorian said about her brother’s passing. “It was the loss of a legacy.”