Video: Artist celebrates her culture 100 years after genocide

CHicago-based artist Jackie Kazarian with husband and son. (Screengrab/Medill Reports)

By Sean Froelich

Chicago-based artist Jackie Kazarian, 56, debuted Project 1915 last week. The project was done to remember Kazarian’s perished ancestors in the Armenian genocide and those who managed to survive.

Jackie Kazarian’s painting is on display at Mana Contemporary until May 29. (Brian MacIver/Medill)

Her painting, called “Armenia”, is less about recalling the suffering of the era but rather a celebration of Armenian culture. This week marks the centennial of the genocide.

Between 1915 and 1918, nearly 1.5 million Armenian Christians were systematically killed in the Ottoman Empire during the chaos of World War I. The Ottoman Turks, in the midst of defeat, targeted Armenians in the Empire due to fear they would ally with Russia, an enemy.

Project 1915 gave Kazarian the opportunity to address the psychic wounds she inherited from her parents and grandparents. Kazarian grew up experiencing her father’s rage and looked upon the physical scars of older relatives.

Many recognize this tragic period as the Armenian genocide, making it the first genocide of the 20th century. Kazarian began Project 1915 two years ago, it was her largest work to date.

“I was almost paralyzed at the very beginning of this project,” Kazarian said about opening to the emotions that came from being a descendent of genocide.

But the travesty is still an issue of contention. Modern day Turkey will not recognize the period as genocide, instead calling it an allegation. Because Turkey is an American ally, the U.S. stopped short of using the term genocide.

Kazarian’s Project 1915 can be seen at Mana Contemporary at 2233 S. Throop St. until May 29.

Photo at top: Jackie Kazarian with husband and son. (Sean Froelich/Medill)