Opening Reception: 'Diasporan Portraits' by Eileen Calveloux
October 16, 2016
2:00 pm-4:00 pm
UMass Amherst Campus
The Armenian Genocide has become a kind of a shadow history, denied and mostly forgotten. These images are to remind us of that history and to remind us of those who are gone.
“Diasporan Portraits” is a series I began in 2005. The project relates to other work I’ve done related to the Armenian genocide of 1915-1922. My grandmother was a survivor and the stories and history were silenced in our family. A relative’s recent research has revealed that over seventy members of my grandmother’s family died as a result of the genocide and massacres that took place both before and after the actual genocide. My father and his generation had never been told known of the existence of these family members.
The silence began to work on me. Much later, after my grandmother and her siblings were gone, I began to do artwork based on the silence in my family and the genocide. This series does include many members of my family, but isn’t specifically about them. The people depicted in these pieces are descendants of a genocide survivor, except for spouses and partners. Spouses are not directly descended but they share in the legacy. I wanted to show real, present-day people who walk among us. They are survivors of a people that was nearly obliterated, but they are still here, still in this world. Shadowing on some of the figures represents the effects of an inherited trauma. Even when people are not particularly knowledgeable about their history, it still affects them. Echoes of the original trauma can reverberate through generations. The transparency of the images relate to what has become a nearly hidden genocide, in that it occurred in plain sight but has almost entirely disappeared through careful obliteration. The Armenian Genocide has become a kind of a shadow history, denied and mostly forgotten. These images are to remind us of that history and to remind us of those who are gone. They are also meant to remind us of survival and hope, particularly during these dark days with so many other survivors in this world trying desperately to find safety.