Hanover artist Varujan Boghosian dies at 94


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 09-22-2020 9:37 PM

HANOVER — Varujan Boghosian, the puckish artist who mined the castoffs of material culture to assemble works both powerful and whimsical, died Monday at his home in Hanover. He was 94.

He had suffered a broken hip last week and died of complications from his injury, his daughter, Heidi Boghosian, said Tuesday.

Critical and scholarly responses to Boghosian’s work often described him as a magician, able to combine seemingly disparate elements into compositions both beautiful and possessed of historical weight. He was also part magpie, gathering materials from junk shops, flea markets, magazines and literature, as well as and from friends who spotted items and sent them to him.

“When I walk into the studio, the material dictates where I go,” Boghosian told the Valley Newsin 2015, when he had exhibitions at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester and at BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt.

His work included assembled sculpture and two-dimensional collages and is part of the collections of major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which exhibited “Varujan Boghosian: Master Manipulator,” one of his last major shows, in 2018.

Born in 1926 to Armenian immigrant parents in New Britain, Conn., Boghosian served in the Navy in World War II and went to college on the GI Bill, earning bachelor’s and master of fine arts degrees from Yale University’s School of Art and Architecture. He was married to Marilyn Cummins in 1953. She accompanied him on a stay in Rome, on a Fulbright Grant, not long after they were married. She died in 2007.

He has held several teaching positions since 1958, and first taught at Dartmouth in 1968. From 1982, until his retirement in 1995, he was the George Frederick Jewett Professor of Art at Dartmouth.

Although his work bore the influences of a wide range of artists and writers, Boghosian was a movement of one. His income from teaching allowed him to remain independent of the art world, and he followed his own interests. His influence on art in the Upper Valley was substantial, however, as assemblage became a kind of house style, worked over by a number of skilled practitioners.

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When he spoke with the Valley News in 2015, Boghosian had made 200 collages over the previous two years. He kept working thereafter, but had slowed down in recent months, his daughter said. His younger sister and only sibling, Hasmig Boghosian Sillano, died a few months ago, and he was depressed.

He was in pain after his injury, Heidi Boghosian said, but he held on to his impish sense of humor. “On his deathbed, in his half-consciousness, he was still winking and cracking jokes” with visiting friends. “The whimsical humor was with him to the end.”

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.