Budding Artist: 87-Year Old Painter’s First Exhibition Hosted by Watertown Library

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Seda Mavetosian Margarita Avetian stands in front of some of the paintings in her exhibition at the Watertown Library.

During the month of March, the paintings of an emerging Watertown artist have been displayed in the Library’s art gallery. Margarita Avetian has only been painting for two years, but her work has received rave reviews from other artists. Not bad for someone who never had any artistic training during any of her 87 years.

Avetian’s daughter, Seda Matevosian said her mother got started by chance when she was putting on a fun artistic activity for some of her family and friends. Matevosian is an artists herself, and teaches classes through Winchester’s Recreation Department

“This is kind of accidental. I did paint night at home. I invited my sister in law — all ladies — friends, my sister-in-law’s mother and my Mom, and they all did it,” Matevosian said. “She did it so different from everyone that I was like, wow, she has something!”

All of Margarita’s painting at the Watertown Library have one central theme — flowers — but there are a great variety based on the theme.

“It is interesting how she came up with this, her own style,” Matevosian said. “She paints canvases and then she just adds flowers and she doesn’t actually draw them (first), she just draws with paint.”

Charlie Breitrose Some of the paintings created by Margarita Avetian, who just started painting two years ago.

Matevosian said that her mother’s artwork is representative of the naive style.

The paintings in the exhibit have a wide range of background colors, from blues and greens to reds and oranges. Each has a pot with flowers coming out of them. Some feature a single type of flower, and others have a mixed bouquet. The style is simple, but it catches the eye.

“It is so harmonious, compositionally, when you look at the balance of color and form,” Matevosian said.

When she posted some of her mother’s paintings online, someone commented “Oh, Grandma Moses.” Matevosian said her mother’s situation is a bit different.

“You know Grandma Moses had education in art, actually. My mom never had any,” she said.

Avetian was born in Armenia, and when she was 12 her parents moved to Georgia.

“That’s why her education kind of stopped there, because when they came to Georgia she didn’t speak Georgian — it’s a totally different language,” Matevosian said.

Margarita Avetian, right, greets one of the attendees of the opening reception of her paintings at the Watertown Library. Photo courtesy of Seda Mavetosian.

Margarita got married when she was 16, and by age 17 she had her first child.

“She had one after another, like six children, and then she was raising them,” Avetian said. “She never had the time to sit down and do anything.”

While Avetian speaks three languages, English is not one of them. Avetian moved to the United States about 30 years ago, two years after her daughter. She lived in different parts of Watertown, and for many years, and said (through her daughter’s translating) that she never had much interaction with English speakers because she helped raise her grandchildren.

After the paintings got some attention, Matevosian approached the library to see if they would display some of her paintings.

“I have many artist friends, and they kind of pushed me. They said, you should do an exhibition for your mom, these are incredibly beautiful,” Matevosian said.

The paintings will be on display through the end of March. When the exhibit first went up there was an opening reception.

“It was so great, some people — I hadn’t seen them for 10 plus years — came,” Matevosian said. “I have two boys who used to play chess professionally, and I would drive them to tournaments. And the chess photographer from Chess magazine came here because he saw on Facebook that I put the flyer on that my mom is having an exhibition.”

Holding a bouquet of flowers, 87-year-old artist Margarita Avetian sits at the opening of her first exhibition, which was hosted by the Watertown Library. Photo courtesy of Seda Mavetosian.

On Friday, one of Margarita’s neighbors admired her work.

“I love the way it is not all exact, how that tilts a little. It makes it more real, you know,” said Janet Powers. “I’m blown away by her work. It’s beautiful!”

Those who like Avetian’s paintings can purchase them. All of the proceeds will go to a cause that is very meaningful for her.

“It all goes to soldiers in Armenia. She doesn’t sell them for herself,” Mavetosian said. “She was always saying she would like to help. One of my sisters found two families after the war … she actually found families and she directly sends them money.”

They had been fighters in Armenia’s war with Azerbaijan in Karabakh. Mavetosian said thousands of Armenians were killed and thousands more were injured.

Those interested in purchasing paintings can contact Seda Mavetosian at sedamatevos@gmail.com

Matevosian hopes that this will not be the last exhibition of her mother’s work, and she said there are at least as many paintings at Margarita’s home as are in the exhibition at the library.

The Watertown Free Public Library is located at 123 Main St., Watertown, and the art gallery is located on the second floor behind the information desk. Margarita Avetian’s artwork will be on display through the end of March.

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