Lara Chauvin

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Lara Chauvin is an artist.

She was born in Australia in the family of Armenian immigrants.

Chauvin moved between the worlds of fashion and art as well as her Armenian cultural community and the larger Australian society.

In 2002 she married a Canadian and moved to Edmonton.

Her travels have led her to some questions about her identity as an Armenian-Australian-Canadian woman.

"In Sydney, there are over 40,000 Armenians," says Chauvin. "It's almost like you're living in it all the time with church or school, you bump into people on the street, you've always got that around you. But coming here, it's almost Armenian-free. There are only a handful of Armenians who don't necessarily keep in contact, so I almost miss it, even though I sometimes hated it and rejected it when I was in Sydney."

As for 2005, Chauvin, has never been to Armenia, decided that she'd look into the lives of Armenian women who share a cultural past despite being from vastly disparate adopted cultures.

"There's something in that, because there are a lot of Armenians that scattered because of the genocide in 1915. They ended up in the Middle East, France, America, and now the second generation went to Australia and Canada. So I was thinking there are a lot of women in these different countries with the same roots. How are they communicating? How do they feel? It's like an identity struggle. Am I western, as in an Aussie or a Canuck? Or am I a deep-rooted spiritual being with a war-torn past?"

Her paintings are a means of expressing these questions, by depicting women who are so far away but share this common thread of culture.

"When they come together, there is bound to be something that clicks together, a sisterhood. Armenian women are quite strong-willed; in Armenia, many of them keep their maiden names and are highly educated. But when they go into other cultures, for instance in the Middle East, the way they act is so different. And in Canada, Australia or America, we are more independent."

This hybridization is reflected in the dress of the women, but she has also created similarities between her subjects.

"The clothing is a mix, traditional and modern. They're not technically a traditional costume, more a combination of bohemian-now and the past.

"And a lot of them have the stereotypical dark features and fair skin. They all have a powerful stance."


  • ARTIST EXPLORES HER ARMENIAN HERITAGE,Edmonton Journal (Alberta), December 9, 2005 Friday