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Aram Comjean , May Artist of the Month

Aram Comjean , May Artist of the Month

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Interview with Artist of the Month, Aram Comjean, as told to Andrea Read

Tell us about your current work as a photographer. What inspires you these days? How is your work evolving?
I always liked the ability of art to tell a story and let you see things in a different way.  I’m trying to start using my more “traditional” photography and merge it with a data visualization to reveal the hidden side to things. A recent series involves taking an image of a creature, and species specific DNA sequences and combining them. We’re all made of DNA and way more similar than expected, but we’re more than that. 

Describe your journey as an artist. When did you first begin taking photos? What sparked your interest as a photographer?
When in high school I was a guard at the DeCordova Museum, which exposed me to a lot of different art.  I’m interested in the stories art could tell. The National Geographic photos exhibited was shown there and it was inspiring.  I began taking photos at university and ended up a staff photographer and eventually photo editor at the UMass Daily Collegian. During that time I also assisted as event photographer doing mostly secondary lighting. Those events were full of hidden human dynamics, which we always had to be aware of, those can show up if you want them too or not.  I just kept trying to document using a camera, different topics.

I’ve also always enjoyed getting outside and trying to capture a sense of a place. Also, wildlife, especially if it’s a little whimsical. There are so many photos these days it’s really challenging to get something interesting and unique, but I enjoy the process.  

Are there other artforms that you work in?

Currently it’s just photography. 

Whose work do you gravitate to? Who are some of your touchstones – photographers, artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, etcetera?
There are so many great artists out there. The work of Paul Klee and Lyonel Feininger as they seem to create interesting abstract images that are relatable. Edward Weston’s photos seem to have a lot of soul. Wegge’s press photos are just great, Yousuf Karsh and Mary Ellen Mark do a great job with portraits. I like the larger than life creativeness of  Annie Leibovitz portraits. The Humans Of New York series by Brandon Stanton, with short stories and photographs is fantastic.  

Where do you most find inspiration for your work?
I try to find beauty and intrigue in the day to day. I love to try and look at things as if I was a tourist in my own town or reveal the inner working of something. Travel seems to help inspire because it’s interesting to see what is going on elsewhere and it gives a fresh perspective on what is going on when back home.  Looking at other artist’s work is also inspiring. 

Tell us about your involvement with Somerville Open Studios. How does that work on behalf of so many Somerville artists feed your own work as an artist, and vice versa?
I’ve been volunteering for Somerville Open Studios (SOS) over 15 years now mainly working on the website and member registration. I’ve had the fortune of having a great team helping out. It really is inspiring that it’s put together by volunteers. It’s a lot of work though, and it’s always slightly amazing that the event comes together every year. It might not happen any given year depending on effort and there have been other open studios events that have disappeared.  Everyone is so busy, especially artists, but I always encourage people to volunteer.
When I was showing during the event the feedback from visitors is great. I’m naturally kind of shy and it’s difficult put your art out there but very worth it. I’ve been able to attend SOS as a visitor for a few years – it really is a fantastic event.  The creative work of the artists here in the city is amazing and inspiring. Talking to the artists is one of the fantastic parts of the event, learning about inspiration and process.  

How long have you lived in Somerville? What are some of the places and activities you love most about the city?
Although my studio spaces have always been in Somerville I’ve always lived just outside. The city is a great mix and has lots of interesting communities, art events and food.  The Somerville Theater's Crystal Ballroom, Somerville Museum, Somerville Open Studios, Honk Fest, ArtBeat and Porch Fest are some of my favorites.

What are some of your favorite museums?
I do enjoy the Harvard Art Museums – they’re a good size as to not be totally overwhelming. For some of the older pieces, I like to think about the artist who created them, and what would they think about it being in a museum. The Somerville Museum has been having interesting exhibits. Dia Beacon is one of my favorites, it’s huge and interesting to explore.  

Where are some of the most memorable places you’ve traveled?
I went to Armenia to visit my cousin who was working on a project there. It’s definitely an interesting place, especially when you get out into the countryside. I also had the fortune of traveling through the Panama Canal, which is a technical feat of engineering. I’m always amazed what people have the capacity of doing when the will is there.

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