Several of the pieces from this show line the walls of the Burbank home she shares with her husband and their two dogs. The charcoal pieces look like black and white film stills hanging in her artist studio, which is filled with the dolls she uses for reference and the specimen jars she collects.
In a new painting, set to appear in a show in Italy this summer, Bagayan focused on the eyes, which are glittering green and almost feline in appearance. She was inspired by an interview with a woman who said that human eyes were too sensitive to handle the atmosphere of another planet. The character in this painting is a tree spirit from a world that hasn’t suffered any sort of environmental destruction. Bagayan created a Tumblr page for the Tree Spirit, where she answers reader-submitted questions.
Bagayan has hit an interesting point in her fine art career, but this transition wasn’t as abrupt as it seems. She’s been evolving ever since she first hit the gallery scene at 20 years old.
Born in Yerevan, Bagayan was six when her family came to the U.S. They left right before Armenia became an independent nation.
“Sometimes I feel like I had two different childhoods,” Bagayan says. “I remember a lot of things from when I was a kid in Armenia, playing with friends and going to school there. At the same time, I remember coming here and feeling so much younger because I couldn’t speak the language or communicate with people. ”
One of her earliest shows was based on the text books she had as a child in what was the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. It’s the only time she has used a theme for a show.
As a high school student in Burbank, Bagayan became interested in artists like Mark Ryden, Joe Sorren and Eric White. She still considers them her favorite artists.
Bagayan studied illustration at Art Center and worked in that field for a while, but her fine art career took off pretty quickly. She scored her first solo show at La Luz de Jesus about a year after she first showed at the influential gallery.
For a while, Bagayan’s work was, she says, “cartoony.” That all changed a couple years ago with a solo show in Seattle. “I wanted to focus on things that I thought were a weakness,” she says of that period.
Now, the changes in her work are primarily thematic. In a way, Bagayan is simply zooming in on elements that have been present in her work for years.
“I think I was already doing alien-ish characters before,” says Bagayan. “The difference isn’t that much.”
— Liz Ohanesian
See more photos from Ana Bagayan’s studio on the following page.