Low-Relief: Reliquaries, 2015-2016

Reliquaries is a series of low relief sculpture inspired by the stone carvings on the 10th century Armenian cathedral of Agh’tamar and is dedicated to the memory of genocide victims and survivors. The sculptures are done in Model Magic on wooden panels just under 8” square, emulating the stone blocks of the cathedral. Model Magic is marketed as a children’s modeling compound; easily modeled when fresh, it becomes progressively more brittle as it dries. I coat the sculptures with acrylic to create an illusion of permanence. Droopy-looking peacocks, rabbits, goats, mice, and other animals sink, frolic, stand guard, scramble, and cavort amidst grapevinelike structures in various degrees of vitality and decay.

With this imagery and material I hope to evoke both the fragility and monumentality of memory, and the uncertainties of literal and historical survival. The genocide targeted children as the future of the Armenian people, killing most, but preserving some as slaves or successors while obliterating their Armenian identities. Likewise, monuments such as Agh’tamar were deliberately destroyed, allowed to decay or were relabeled with false names and histories to serve the interests of the perpetrators. Nevertheless, the remaining stones as well as the memories of many of the survivors have resisted the attempts to efface their Armenian past. Reliquaries seeks to reflect on and illustrate this fragile history.