Gallery Girl meets Mary Badalian

“Quiet rebellion.” That is how artist Mary Badalian describes her embroidered canvases, artworks that transform a traditionally female, domestic craft into fine art. Mary’s work consists of an immersive practice of mixed media on canvas, combining thread, beads and paint – an ode to her grandmother, an avid embroiderer. 

In a new exhibition called Chromological Disorder curated by Anna Gargarian of IN SITU art agency in Yerevan, Mary’s work is premiered to the public for the first time. The presentation consists of a series of works that Mary has been working on since 2017 and in celebration of Mary’s show, Gallery Girl asked her a few questions about her practice.

Mary Badalian

When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?

As a child I always had a fascination with color and paints, which is probably true for most children. My grandma was a huge fan of mine. I still remember how she boasted to everyone “ Look she’s not even coloring outside the lines” when I was drawing in a coloring book, as if it was a great accomplishment. That praise is what gave me the confidence to think of myself as someone who has artistic talent in those early days. But it took me about 20 years to start the pursuit of art as a career.

Identity Crisis by Mary Badalian. Photocredits Harut Saroyan courtesy of INSITU

What drew you to incorporating embroidery in your work?

I had a little embroidery phase in high school that I had long forgotten about. But a few years ago I rekindled my love for it in a new way. At that time I had not touched a pencil or a brush in about two years and was looking for marketing jobs. My grandma had passed away in the winter of that year but months later my aunt brought me her embroidery thread collection from the Soviet times that she kept all this time. I had a few unfinished canvases lying around and then I just thought of making a few stitches on it.

Installation with beads by Mary Badalian. Photocredits Harut Saroyan courtesy of INSITU

Can you tell me how your grandmother has influenced your art?

My grandmother was a very interesting person. She had an important rank in the Soviet government and even gave a speech at the UN once. And in her spare time she enjoyed a bit of embroidery. She was strict but also very encouraging towards my artistic endeavors, as her husband, my grandpa was a painter and a poet himself.

Image courtesy Mary Badalian

Can you tell me about your work in the current show?

This is the very first show in my career as an artist. It is both a loving homage to my grandmother and the story of the last four years of my life. All the gains and losses, triumphs and defeats, the whole emotional rollercoaster of those years encrypted in abstract embroidery.

CHROMOLOGICAL DISORDER is on display at Dalan Art Gallery in Yerevan, Armenia between July 2 and 29, 2021

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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