Aiwa Trailblazers

Hovhannisyan, Tamara

Global Art Curator, Poet

June 29, 2022

Perspectives from Global Art Curator: Processing Reality Through Art

By: Christine Soussa and Sareen Mekhitarian

Art is the expression of how we process our world. It’s not the critic who gets celebrated but the creator. Throughout history, artists and creators have helped us process the world, whether in conflict or celebration, hostility or harmony. Dr. Tamara Hovhannisyan is a global art curator and published poet who uses her talent to drive positive change.

Dr. Hovhannisyan shares her philosophy on life, art, and beauty. One of Dr. Hovhannisyan’s immediate qualities is her ability to recognize potential and appreciate what art communicates through imagery. She vividly sees that perpetual beauty surrounds. She advocates the importance of explicitly deciding to rid ourselves of distractions so we can truly appreciate its allure.

Her driving force is her desire to help humanity understand the importance of art and culture, which she does “through sharing life experiences and [being] a living example of sharing all abilities that one can have.” She knows that one doesn’t necessarily need a lifetime of knowledge and experience to be able to make an impact on society. Her years as a teacher taught her that she, too, can learn from her students. “As a former educator, I know there are hidden gems in the ones that are confused and the ones who are struggling to find their path/journey in life. In reality, these are the individuals who have a hidden force and ultimately make changes in society, good or bad. So, leaders have to find a way to create an environment where the good dominates the bad. There is a level of flexibility when someone is still finding their way and path.”

In addition to being an artist, poet, and teacher, Hovhannisyan wholeheartedly embraces her Armenianness. Having emigrated from Armenia, Hovhannisyan found it challenging to assimilate while still clinging to her Armenian identity.There were moments of self-observation. I questioned how I survived in this new environment that adapted me in my middle-of-life journey. I came to this country without knowledge of its language, being Armenian, carrying the dowry of my ancestral land: the gifts of kindness, curiosity, manners. I had nothing, I had no money; just my heart and my hardworking hands. And somehow, I made it. Yes, being Armenian and being the daughter of my parents and a daughter of my nation made me understand my surroundings and enabled me to create my own presence in the new environment, especially where there is a huge level of competition. To be a person of positive influence, how I conduct business with honesty and care, how I love the world, it reflects back on my destiny. But in a changing world, I was able to cash in the universal values that were part of me in order to impart good.”

Considering Armenia’s rich history and culture, she believes that Armenians have a duty to the rest of the world to share what they have learned from their troubled past. “I’ve been thinking about the hidden light that we carry as Armenians. We have sown beautiful seeds of hospitality in the way we behave and conduct ourselves. There is a national kindness, honesty, dedication to family, worldwide acceptance, and desire to be helpful and kind. I deeply love our religious literature and how we philosophize. The wealth of existential wisdom is incredible. How we forgive each other and grow from ashes is something I love. We always find a way to rejuvenate ourselves.”

After over a century of denial and Armenia’s attempt at recovery from a genocide, a new wave of disappointment crashed over Armenians worldwide as war was waged in Artsakh, starting on September 27, 2020. The combination of the pandemic along with war took its toll on the nation and those in the diaspora. “2020 was a historic year for humanity, with two aspects that mark our existential journey as a nation. We experienced the horrific 44 days of war, and we still have to deal with the aftermath of this tragedy. A loss of pride, the hope for the future we carry. What happened in general, it was a time given to us for us to be isolated for moments of self-reflection. We all started to realize how fragile we are as humans and how treasured our relationships are in our close circle of family and friends. We learned the connection between reality and us. We realized how easy or hard it is to surround ourselves with or without connections to others we care about.”

Hovhannisyan used this time to observe the world through a different lens, a lens of learning and growth, and she encourages us to take a step back, reflect, and absorb the beauty that surrounds us so we can build a future with the gifts of love in mind. “We have no choice but to build a relationship with nature and what God created; it’s behind the window you look through. Before, we didn’t properly enjoy the opportunities of beauty. We missed it. Start to worship and accept the offerings of nature. Environmental issues are also important because we realize how careless we were before. What surrounds us and what value it drives. When you’re distracted and stuck in traffic while driving to work, you miss the sunset. We realize there is a block between us and the beauty that surrounds. 2020 started to change our philosophy and approach to life as it relates to relationships between society, nature, and personal relationships.”

2020 was an upheaval for all of us and, for many, that upheaval continues in 2022. It seems Armenians have additional scars to tend to. “We all suddenly aged. It’s important for us to have the opportunity to stay together and share the emotions of life together. There was a time when I was thinking about leaving everything in the US and going back to Armenia to face and see everything first hand.”

Survival is the metric many of us identify during tough times. It’s what Armenians have been doing for over a century. Those in the diaspora feel a pull toward Armenia, wanting to do whatever possible to highlight not only this issue but humanity’s general neglect of one another. For Hovhannisyan, this pull has been intensified since the war. “I realized how much 2020 affected my daily life as a businesswoman, person, and parent. No matter how close or far I am, the reality is this is part of our soul. We are always here and there, it’s a priceless division. It’s what makes me a bird with two wings. The fear for the tomorrow of my homeland is still very troubling. As a poetess, I don’t take things easy.”

Tamara speaks to the idea that war equates to lost lives as well as the loss of youth. Many don’t realize the Armenian state was founded in 190 B.C. Armenia and Artsakh represent noble people who have a vast history, historically significant churches, and an ancient language and alphabet.

“There is no longer a sense of nobility. The whole world is going on and evolving the same way, totally ignoring the reality of pain, loss. Our destiny is shared. It’s one of mixed emotions.”

But we should not allow the hardships of this year to trickle into every aspect of our lives. We need to process the pain and learn how to carry the load in a way that builds us up instead of weighing us down. “I’m doing the best I can to deal with the hard reality, the loss. Thinking about my lost motivation of writing, who will read it? We have to do something, we have to find a way to not lose hope, I understand, but overall, education, peace, and tolerance, those are ingredients that we need to hold as treasures for the future. It’s not an easy time.

We cannot be indifferent.”

As we reflect on the past year-and-a-half, let us focus on positive strengths such as resilience, unity, ability, growth, and love, using these gifts as guides on our journey from pain to peace with purpose. “My hope for the future: this lengthy isolation had some sort of a philosophical meaning. The moments of self-reflection were and are very important. We all became half human, half machine. It’s the time to realize WHO YOU ARE. You want to know how capable you are to be part of your existential journey. Are we carrying the light like we did when we were young? What can you contribute? Are you a taker or a giver? What have you learned about yourself? Nothing is easy. Nothing is given. Realize you are a part of a wealthy world. We need to embrace the existential beauty with everything that it gives, near and far.”

Hovhannisyan’s outlook serves as an inspiration to us to examine the world we live in and find the beauty it emanates rather than fixate on the negative. As a people who have faced an immense challenge, we now know that we are capable of overcoming difficulties without losing ourselves or our hope.