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ISSUE 117 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/5/2004

Bread art rises to success

By Shannon Merillat
Contributing Writer


Friday, March 5, 2004

The walls and floors of Dittmann Center are adorned with bread and earth, and the sound of bare hands kneading bread dough echoes in the background. This exhibit is Armenian artist Apo Torosyans Bread Series, titled Hope, Not Hate, which runs until March 14. Through his art, Torosyan expresses the hardship of immigration and the horrors of Armenian genocide experienced by his fathers generation.

If you look closely, you can never find one single slice of bread similar to another, Torosyan said. Bread embodies all three elements of Torosyans artistic statement: texture, symbolism and the ordinary object. According to Torosyan, the texture symbolizes time, and the mounds of earth and bread symbolize life, peace, and the ordinary object.

With the Bread Series, Torosyan attempted to portray his own interpretation of the life cycle. I believe my own story is a universal story, Torosyan said. To Torosyan, the bread symbolizes victims of oppression, including his own ancestors, who suffered from starvation.

Torosyan is an immigrant, having emigrated from Istanbul, Turkey to the United States in 1968. He received his masters degree in fine arts from the Academy of Fine Arts in Turkey. He began the Bread Series in 1992 and completed it in 1996.

The piece is unconventional at first glance: mounds of earth cover the floor of the museum, symbolizing the obstacles that immigrants have to overcome in their new lives. The mounds are covered with loaves of bread on newspapers, which represent the poor mans tablecloth.

Because of Torosyans unusual medium, not all viewers immediately understand his message. He spoke of one instance at a Massachusetts college where he observed students staring quizzically at piles of dirt in the exhibit. One student approached Torosyan and asked him, Is dirt art? He told the student, That is not dirt. That is earth. Earth is what you and I are made of: what everything is made of. Earth is life.

Besides bread, Torosyan has used a variety of different media in his art, including acrylic paint, paper, burlap, old letters, photographs, lace and gold foil. In a piece about human rights, Torosyan used bread, gold fabric, acrylic paint, gold plastic beads and paper.

One striking piece is a photo of a general who ordered the massacre of thousands of Armenians. The photo is embedded within a piece of bread and surrounded by black and white photos of young girls who survived the genocide. You see these girls faces  they are young girls, but their faces look like those of old women. They have seen everything, Torosyan said.

Another bread-and-paint piece on canvas depicted the exile of Armenians during the genocide. A letter written by Torosyans father during that time was embedded in the piece. A line of immigrants extended from the light- colored morning left side to the darker-colored night right side. Torosyan said that the bread in this piece represents an unreachable mountain.

The people walked all day, Torosyan said. Many were butchered, tortured and killed. Few made it through the journey.

The theme of the Bread Art series, Hope, Not Hate, coincided well with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum at St. Olaf. One of the goals of the Forum was to facilitate discussion on the dynamics of peacemaking and the underlying causes of war and conflict. Torosyan seeks to use his art to inspire conversation on such topics.

If my work remains in someone's mind and touches someone's heart and soul, my statement is complete, Torosyan said. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my work with you."





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