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FAR Says Goodbye to Avedis Baghsarian

Today, FAR mourns the loss of a dedicated friend and benefactor, an incredibly talented artist, compassionate humanitarian, and an amazing individual, Avedis Baghsarian. He passed away on February 11th at the age of 87.

Vicki Shoghag Hovanessian, an advisor to the Ministry of Culture of Armenia who worked closely with Avedis and curated a 2018 exhibition of his life's work at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, said, "I mourn the loss of Avedis Baghsarian, a multi-disciplinary artist and a bright star in the art world. Fate presented me a rare happiness to meet an exceptional personality, a trailblazer, a visionary, a man with enormous energy whose works manifest in a variety of mediums, including photography, sculpture, video, architecture. We have lost a legend. May he rest in peace."

Avedis was always concerned about the needs of Armenia and its future. He remained deeply devoted to the country, believing that the country’s youths were its greatest resource and the key to bettering their country’s future—provided they had access to education. And he embodied that belief throughout his adult life.

After Avedis and his wife, Arsho, took a FAR-organized trip to Armenia, they decided to sponsor the university educations of two students, one who was studying journalism, the other fashion design. Later, the couple launched the Avedis & Arsho Baghsarian Educational Fund, a scholarship program to empower youth through higher education. Graduates also had to make a three-year commitment to work in their home country of Armenia after earning their degrees.

Their hope was that the next generation of Armenians be given the opportunity to become competitive in the global economy and ultimately become good productive citizens who would be able to develop themselves and their futures, as well as that of their country.

Pursuing His Passion

Avedis Baghsarian was born in Jerusalem’s Armenian quarter in 1933, the son of Arakel, a grocery store owner and devoted church member, and Dzaghig, a native of Kessab, Syria who nearly lost her entire immediate family during the Armenian Genocide. The love and affection of his parents left their mark in the form of a happy childhood, and he remained very close with his extended family throughout his life.

The Baghsarians migrated to the United States in 1955, after their family lost everything during the 1948 Israeli-Palestinian War. There, Avedis served in the U.S. Armed Forces from 1956 until 1958 as a combat and aerial reconnaissance photographer.

During the 1960s, while working full time in New Jersey, Avedis commuted daily to attend photography and industrial design classes at the School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design.

Avedis met his wife Arsho, a successful shoe wear designer, in 1965. They stayed happily married for 53 years and resided in Manhattan. They were very much involved in the life of New York’s Armenian community and the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Avedis worked as an assistant to the renowned photographer Phillipe Halsman for LOOK and LIFE magazines, and later opened his own studio where he specialized in fashion and commercial photography. He became a pioneer in the application of abstract forms and designs on photographic film. In 1972, Art Direction magazine named Avedis one of the most influential photographers of that era. He also authored 12 books of photography.

Then, in 1992, Avedis moved into design, creating a large collection of functional yet unique houseware items. His collection won the prestigious International Design Magazine Award in 1994.

He then started making large-scale outdoor steel sculptures. Each of these, such as one called "Migrating Geese," are nature-oriented and are scattered all over Long Island, but mostly in East Hampton and Southampton, where he and Arsho had two homes.

A patriotic American and self-proclaimed New Yorker, Avedis was deeply affected by the attacks of 9/11. He created a collection of miniature hanging sculptures of the New York City skyline for which Citibank gave him a solo showing on the first anniversary of the attacks. Avedis was also a participant in the competition for the design of the 9/11 Memorial and was chosen as one of the 500 finalists out of a total of 15,000 entries.

He was a proud American citizen who loved the richness and diversity of the United States. The last two paintings he created, "Melting Democracy" and "Democracy Prevailed," expressed his strong belief in the importance of upholding this fragile system for the betterment of our nation.

He embraced life with passion. At 84 years old he said, "Time is running out and I want to keep creating. Everyday I surprise myself that at my age I am able to learn something new."

“Avedis was someone who made this world a better, purer place to live in. He was a man with enormous energy and enthusiasm; no space could contain his fantasy and imagination. He was a man of the universe,” said FAR Executive Director Garnik Nanagoulian. “His generosity also made a life-changing difference to many of Armenia’s youth and gave hope and opportunity to many.”

Avedis is survived by his loving wife, Arsho.

May he rest in peace.

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