The global economic meltdown has diminished any hopes artist

extraordinaire Avedis Baghsarian had held of staging an exhibition of his

latest works.

"According to the galleries and art experts conditions are so bad that they claim you can purchase masterpieces such as Picasso's, for 1/4 the price of their estimated value," he told this correspondent, echoing the current feeling in the worldwide financial market. But despite the setback, Avedis remains undaunted. And on the go. Although in his mid seventies, he still keeps himself busy and his keen eyes miss nothing. "I strongly believe an active mind is the best way to stay young and healthy, because creativity helps us renew our brain cells," he concurred. The renowned former Jerusalemite has found a home and a niche in Southampton, where he has ample opportunity to hone his multifaceted skills in photography, architecture, industrial design and lately sculpture. For kaghakatsi Armenians, sculpture has been an esoteric facility, one they admire mainly from a distance. Only a handful have had the tenacity to experiment with clay, metal, or stone. Alas, we have no records of their achievements - a sad commentary on this otherwise vibrant community. That is one mistake our contemporary artists will never make. Artists like Avedis Baghsarian. He has tried his hands at a wide range of arts from photography to architecture, reflecting his eclectic talents. But it is for sculptor that he has now found a long lost love. Sculptor, architect, photographer, industrial designer ... all reflect the eclectic talents of Avedis Baghsarian It's a long way from the cobblestoned alleys of the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, the setting he credits with making him feel the first stirrings of an artistic spirit. Despite the acclaim and accomplishment, he remains a "kaghakatsi" at heart, that enterprising breed of individuals reared in the Armenian Quarter (where most people knew him as Hanno or Hovannes), who have enriched the cultural heritage of the region with their contributions, particularly in art and literature. His first foray was in photography at one of the leading Armenian practitioners of the craft in town - but it was in the US, after his discharge from the Army, that he began to hone his art to perfection. His work earned him accolades across the country but there was always something more challenging beyond, and he soon turned his hand to other mediums and disciplines. (In the meantime, he took enormous joy in designing his own house) One of the table top vases he created, has found its way into the Jerusalem Museum of Art. But he has also carved out a name for himself in over a score of prestigious museums, including New York's Guggenheim, San Francisco's Metropolitan and Kobi's Museum of Art. Avedis recalls the pleasant surprise he got in 1993 when Interior Design Magazine honored him for his "Satellite Collection." Others had taken note of him as well. "Some people from a Jewish organization in New York City found out that I was born in Jerusalem and I was asked if I would like to contribute a vase for a silent auction for the benefit of the museum," he told this correspondent. "About 6 months later a manufacturer of home furnishings from Israel who had seen the piece in Jerusalem, and came to my showroom and asked to be my exclusive distributing agent - he placed a very large order - but I have not heard from him since and I can't tell how successful he was with my products," he said. When he moved to his second home, he discovered he had a landscape that was perfect for a new experience, and that gave him his start in environmental sculpture. The Hamptons where he has his home is a very unique place, he notes. Because it is an island and surrounded by water, light reflects in a special way and gives an unusual glow to the landscape. Avedis believes he has been more successful with his Manhattan skyline sculptures than with other works. He started creating them after 9/11, and held an exhibition on the first anniversary of that horrendous day. The skyline effect is achieved by multiple layers of building facades scored on styrene: each building is individually scored, colored and cut by hand into shapes to simulate certain existing structures in that particular district of Manhattan, Avedis explains. His intention has not been to duplicate the actual buildings but rather interpret their aesthetic vision. With his outdoor sculptures, mostly based on motifs taken from nature, Avedis has created an appealing set of effects culminating in 3D dioramas that seem to exude life. Grasshoppers, birds, frogs and snails are captured in natural finish steel or powder- coated steel, perched in settings that are a producer's dream He notes that his work is reminiscent of the oriental art form of origami which utilizes a different medium, paper. "I call my creations 'metalgami' because they are folded metal," he told one interviewer. One of the most moving sculptures is a three-piece representation of wild geese in flight, titled "Migration." Their craning necks reaching up to the skies, the geese are poised for immediate flight, the illusion created by the slanted angle of the bodies. "Curvaceous" is the way one gallery owner has described these outdoor sculptures. "When you see them, you want to touch them," he is quoted as saying. Lately and specially during the winter months, Avedis has begun creating videos of images he had photographed during summer and winter months. Eschewing elaborate motion picture apparatus, he has opted for a simple digital camera in capturing these sights and sounds. "The challenge for me is not the quality of the images but rather in finding and incorporating the proper music to the images that interest me. I find it very relaxing and it releases some of my creative energy," he told this correspondent. Avedis has been lucky in more ways than one: his wife, Arsho, is an equally renowned artist, a footwear designer who has spent a "colorful career" designing for such names as Christian Dior and Stuart Weitzman. Last year, she was inducted by America's leading footwear publication, Footwear News, into its Hall of Fame for her lifetime achievement (45 years). The couple's support for each other has been instrumental in helping them further their different careers, Avedis concedes.
Armenian Jerusalem