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Kegham Tazian

Linden Park was not the original home for Pyramid Earth, Kegham Tazian’s newly installed 400-pound sculpture. But the 84-year-old artist is proud that the piece is in Birmingham, where his twin sons, daughter, and grandchildren live and where he first lived when he moved to Michigan.

“It extends your life in a sense. It’s something that they will be proud of that their dad’s work is here permanently,” he said.

The sculpture was originally commissioned over 30 years ago for an automotive company. When it closed, Tazian said that a former student recognized it as his; it was briefly installed at Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills, where he was a teacher for 47 years before finding its permanent home in Birmingham thanks in part to the Cultural Council of Birmingham-Bloomfield.

The relocation of his sculpture is an apt metaphor for Tazian’s career itself. The artist describes his prolific career as “art without borders,” referencing both the multitude of mediums he works in – sculpture, oil paint, mixed media, printmaking, and computer-generated – as well as his heritage.

Tazian is Armenian, and when he was only one, his family emigrated from Turkey/Armenia to Lebanon, a French colony at that time. “The French government brought us to safety because we were going to be slaughtered,” he recalled. One of five children raised by a single mother, Tazian followed one of his older brothers to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1960, where Tazian attended a local art school before earning his MFA in sculpture at Wayne State University.

Tazian said that, upon graduation, many of his fellow sculptors found work in the auto industry, but that he was a “foreigner with too many degrees.” Instead, he opened the yellow pages, found the address for OCC, and asked them for a teaching job. While he said that initially their roster was full, as fate would have it, the sculpture professor changed his mind, and they offered Tazian the job.

As an instructor, Tazian had access to ample studio space, key for an artist who sculpts in bronze, wood, limestone, and more. Now, his Farmington Hills home is filled with both current work and those going back decades.

His found object assemblages combine everything from old auto parts to animal bones, as he says he is inspired both by Detroit’s predominant industry and natural elements. His most common subjects, though, are figures, which he said comprise the faces of many of the students who have crossed his path over the years. They are all recreated from memory, both sketched and carved.

With over 40 solo exhibitions, award-winning works at shows from Ann Arbor to London to Lebanon, and large installations in many corporate office spaces and public city buildings, Tazian was honored this past July by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Representative Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham) for his lifetime of achievement in arts and education.

And Tazian shows no signs of slowing down. “It’s a disease being an artist. You have to do something.”

Story: Hillary Brody Anchill

Photo: Laurie Tennent


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