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Robert Barsamian was born in 1947 into a closeknit Armenian community in Whitinsville, Massachusetts. He is the son and grandson of survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide. A studio art major at Massachusetts College of Art, Barsamian went on to receive his M.F.A in 1971 from SUNY Albany. He has lived and worked in Boston, New York City and Dallas.
Barsamian had attained commercial success for his largescale drawings and paintings of underwater swimmers before being mugged and shot in Dallas in 1986. That incident, together with his mother and grandmother's increasing openness about their experiences, caused him to focus upon the Armenian diaspora in his artwork.
Barsamian has exhibited his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions in a variety of museums and other venues throughout the country, including the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Tyler Museum of Art in Tyler, Texas, and the Asilah Museum, Morocco. His installations range from simple renderings on lace stretched on twigs to complex multimedia environments. He has been the recipient of many residencies in settings ranging from Morocco to Houston, Texas. His work has progressed to include theater, performance, and storytelling developed in dialogue with local communities.
Public projects include the City Place Station Art Project, Dart Light Rail System in Dallas, Texas. He has been included in the television documentaries ArtBreath, Pages from My Diary, and Art's Eye. Robert Barsamian is currently represented by Conduit Gallery Dallas, Texas.
Robert Barsamian, The Promise (detail of installation), 1996-97, drawing on lace, 34 x 38 x 2 inches. Photo: Michael Simpson
"As a survivor of a violent armed robbery eleven years ago in Dallas, 1 began to identify with the victimization of my Armenian ancestors. Luco, my grandmother, spoke often of Armenia, the life she had there, and her story of survival. My mother was also a survivor.
These two women are the storytellers in my life and their stories have informed my art. I use symbolic images to represent the Turks, the Armenians, the atrocities, and the hope and strength of the culture."
- Robert Barsamian