HOMETOWN HYE-LITE: HEJINIAN TURNS ARTWORK INTO ACTION
by Tom Vartabedian
May 11, 2012
CHELMSFORD, Mass.-Anyone with a prominent Armenian name like Daniel
Varoujan might be adding poetic justice to the Armenian Genocide.
Daniel Varoujan Hejinian Not necessarily Daniel Varoujan Hejinian. This
talented expressionistic is sending his message through art. All you
have to do is lift your eyes while driving along Watertown to see
samples of his work on billboards.
He’s got one on Arsenal St. and another on Mount Auburn St.,
drawing attention to President Barack Obama’s negligence in properly
recognizing this moment in history. The illustration shows the nation’s
leader with his back turned on the Armenian Genocide.
A third commemorative billboard can be found near Gillette Stadium in
Foxboro, home of the New England Patriots, with the message: “Honoring
the memory of 1.5 million lives. Recognize the Armenian Genocide.” The
illustration is another grabber, written against an image of Der Zor
covered with 1.5 million lights, one for each life lost.
The gesture is nothing new for Hejinian who’s been funding these
billboards out of his own pocket for the past 16 years as part of his
peacekeeping mission called “Peace of Art,” while using his gifts as
an educational tool to bring awareness to the human condition.
Over this time, he’s funded close to 50 billboards and caught the
wrath of opposition from Turkish dissidents who deny the genocide. A
few years ago, some callous individual climbed atop one of those
buildings in the dead of night and defaced a billboard.
Such a vile act really raised awareness from the Boston press, drawing
the sympathy of thousands who may have read about the retaliation. To
say he’s been putting his life on the line may be a mild assumption.
“Doubting and denying the genocide is to repeat the crime against
humanity,” said the artist. “Debating it is an insult to the memory
of 1.5 million Armenians who were slaughtered. For Obama to turn his
back on his promise is morally wrong.”
A resolution from the Massachusetts General Court cited Hejinian
for his lifelong efforts to promote peace through art, combining his
talents with an insatiable desire to bring justice to our people.
Perhaps his most provocative work occurred in 2009 when he unveiled
his “Colors of Liberty” exhibit at the Massachusetts Statehouse. It
included his painting “The Missing Stripes,” dedicated to those
Americans who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks of Sept.
Hejinian remains a visionary throughout the Armenian community,
looking for ways to articulate his artistry. When the call came
out to design a rather significant memorial by Lowell City Hall,
he offered his services gratis.
The end result was an elaborate design of a khatchkar with a woman’s
hands weaving lace, done in a three-dimensional motif while capturing
the textile city theme right to the stitch.
“Knot by knot, her hands weave the history of her people,” he said,
in applying a suitable inscription to the stone.
“Armenians weave their hopes and dreams as they grow and prosper.
Weaving a lace cloth into stone reminds us all of the hard work and
sacrifice these immigrants endured. To them goes our deepest respect