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Kevorkian to unveil Watertown art exhibit

Posted October 1, 2008 08:39 AM

The art is severe, and at times disturbing.

So is the artist, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who will be in Watertown on Sunday to unveil an exhibit of 16 of his paintings owned by the Armenian Library and Museum of America.

This weekend's planned appearance will be a rare out-of-state trip for Kevorkian, a controversial former pathologist from Michigan who earned the nickname ``Dr. Death'' for assisting an estimated 130 terminally ill patients commit suicide. He is on parole after serving eight years in prison on a 1999 second-degree murder conviction for giving a lethal injection to a 52-year-old man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease.

Kevorkian, 80, is the child of two Armenian genocide survivors, and the anguish suffered by his ancestors is reflected in several of his pieces. "1915 Genocide 1945'' mixes real human blood with paint to commemorate the extinction of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Turkish government, and three decades later, the murder of 6 million Jews under the Nazi German regime.

In a phone interview for a story that will appear in Thursday's Globe West, Kevorkian said he doesn't consider himself an artist, just someone who ``puts in paint the condition of the world that we live in.''

He said he began to paint as a hobby when he was a young man. But he kept delving into the topics of life and death he dealt with as a medical examiner. ``Everyone was painting landscapes and clowns and I couldn't see the value in that. I guess the rebel in me was thinking I'll shock them,'' he recalled.

That provoked him to paint ``Very Still Life,'' a brightly rendered piece of an iris bloom growing through a denuded skull and scattered bones.

Bringing Kevorkian to the Armenian Library and Museum may upset some people who disagree with physican-assisted suicide, acknowledged director Mariam Stepanyan. But the museum's mission is ``to preserve the heritage of Armenians for future generations, and to make it relevant for current generations,'' she said.

The controversial doctor is among the world's most famous Armenian-Americans, she said.

``His art and how he intersects it with religion and the present day is informed by the experience of the Armenian people,'' she said. ``He is very connected to his heritage.''

Kevorkian plans to follow Sunday's Watertown appearance with a forum for Harvard ID holders Monday at Harvard Law School, where he expects to discuss his current run for Congress, among other topics.

-- Erica Noonan

2 comments so far...
  1. As with his other "endeavors", Mr. (Dr?) Kevorkian has found another way to use scandal to advance his distorted beliefs, preempting responsible and productive discourse. And, the Boston Globe is playing to his hand.

    While the suffering of the Armenians during WW1 is by no means insignificant, it is deceiving to compare it to the Holocaust. The claim that the Armenian tragedy is another Holocaust is pure falsehood. While the Armenian story should not be forgotten, it should not be exagerated, distorted or propagandized at the expense of the suffering of others.

    It is shameless to compare the Jews with the Armenians for several reasons, not the least of which is that the Jews never sought violence against their German government or German neighbors as part of what could be termed a “national liberation movement”. The Jews in the ranks of German armed forces did not join hostile invaders by the tens of thousands (50,000 Ottoman Armenian soldiers joined the invading Czarist Russian armies). The Jews never captured a German city and ethnically cleansed its non-Jewish inhabitants (Armenians destroyed the 80,000 Turkish community in Van in a matter of days). The activities of the Armenians to create an ethnically homogonized Armenia in a large swath of Anatolia started and fuled a prolonged civil war that embroiled virtually every corner of Anatolia (i.e., present-day Turkey). The consequences for all inhabitants, not just Armenians, was simply devestating, much like the civil wars in Lebenon and present-day Iraq.

    Anatolia became the center of the worst famine in early 20th century, leading to epidemics and lawlessness on a large scale. People were desperate, under constant attack and had no government to rely on. Farmers turned on farmers, neighbors turned on neighbors. Everyone was forced to band around ethnic and/or religious identities. In the end, 2-3 million Turks lost their lives, alongside an estimated 700 thousand Armenians – peoples that had lived together for almost an entire millenia. Only a fraction of these losses were due to outright attorcities (massacres), most of the lives being claimed by famine and disease. This makes the Armenian (and the related Turkish) story a tragedy of a grand scale, but not genocide.

    We are being asked to believe that the Ottoman government (the “Sick Man of Europe”) – a government that could not feed or protect her own loyal soldiers and civillians -- was able to plan, prepare and execute a genocide. The history of the Holocaust make it clear that the Germans needed time and plenty of resources to bring the “Final Solution” to life. In stark contrast, Ottoman could not properly feed, cloth, arm or treat her soldiers fighting at the famous Gallipoli Campaign, loosing tens of thousands of men to disease and famine. It is no wonder then, that while Armenia stands today, there is no Ottoman Empire.

    The Armenian story should not be forgotten. But, neither should it be exagerated, distorted or propagandized at the expense of the Turks that shared a very similar, if not identical, fate.

    False characterization of complicated events and circumstances does not serve justice, goodwill or truth. In fact, it makes things worse. Dr. Kevorkian should have learned this by now.

    Posted by Basat Tayfun October 1, 08 08:57 PM
  1. DR. Kevorkians equating the Armenian sufferings in early 1900 to the Jewish Holucaust is totally wrong and unjustifiable. There is no similitude between the two events.
    Up until late 1800’s most Ottoman Armenians lived in peace and harmony with the Empire’s Muslim population and other minorities. Armenians were highly trusted by the government and held many ministerial and high government positions, including the ministry of foreign affairs. Deceived by the promise of an independent Armenian Republic on the Ottoman lands, members of the Armenian minority joined or actively supported the Russians forces invading eastern Ottoman lands and took arms against their government. Official Ottoman documents from those days record that over three million Ottoman civilian muslims were massacred by the invading Russian forces and the Armenian militia, along with about 300,000 Armenians who died during this war and its aftermath. After the Russian pullout, the resettlement of the remaining Armenian minority to the southern lands was a government effort to protect them against the local Muslim majority who were enraged and vengeful after what the Armenians have done to them. No doubt both sides also committed numerous atrocities against each other and the Ottoman Government, weakened by internal strife and fighting another fierce war in the Gallipolli, was ineffective in controls.
    Jewish holucaust was wholsale extermination of a race who did not uprise an did not colloborate with the enemy. Jews were killed by Nazis becase they were considred an inferior race.

    Posted by DKarsan October 1, 08 11:18 PM
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