Alisha Sofia Describes Hagop Hagopian

Alisha Sofia (b. 1987) attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, completing her degree at Art Center College of Design in 2009. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

The painting she describes in this episode is:

Hagop Hagopian (b. Alexandria, Egypt, 1923-2013, Yerevan, Armenia)
A Woman with a Mirror


Episode Transcript

Welcome to Art Personals, a podcast made by Compound Yucca Valley, an art and event space in California’s high desert. Here, we ask some of our favorite artists to describe another artist’s work as best they can, with only their words and sounds. The one parameter is that the object they choose must be one they have seen in person at some point in their lives (whether that's an ancient artwork in the Metropolitan Museum of Art or a friend's painting in a garage). 

Today, we’ve invited Alisha Sofia, who has chosen to share her experience with Hagop Hagopian’s A Woman With a Mirror. Alisha Sofia’s practice focuses on the female form as both creator and artifact of visual identity. She attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, completing her degree at Art Center College of Design in 2009, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. She had a solo exhibition at Compound last year called Rest and Retreat


Hello, this is Alisha. I am going to be talking about the work by Hagop Hagopian and the piece is called A Woman With a Mirror. The few facts I know about Hagop Hagopian was that he was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1923, and he was predominantly a painter. And he created some sculptures throughout his life. He found most of his inspiration when he moved to Armenia, which is where he later died. Uh, I think that was in 2013. I remember seeing his paintings actually at an exhibition that my grandmother took me to at the Glendale City Hall around 2008, I believe, maybe 2007. I'm not quite sure. The light, the light was pretty bright in there. It was bright and the paintings were pretty blown out, which was interesting, but it kind of fit with the style of the work in an odd way, because he used such neutral and contrasting darker colors. It almost made them pop even more. 

I remember my grandmother describing each of his works to me, in her own interpretation, the clean lines, the details, but done in such a contemporary way, which is pretty, I would say, not very likely to be done by an Armenian artist. Everything's always very perfect and beautiful, but his work was not beautiful. It was showing the dead, the ugly, the rigid, but in a strangely beautiful way. I think you could see the Soviet influence in his paintings because of that. Even his figures, they looked very rigid and static, which I always loved because perhaps it's something I connect with being raised by parents from a former Soviet country. I even sort of emulate that in my figures when I'm painting.

I remember the one piece that stuck out to me was A Woman With a Mirror. So it's a woman seated with scissors in one hand, and she's holding a mirror up to her face.

Her face is completely covered by this mirror. She seems to want to hide her identity. And this was an interesting piece given that Hagop never painted real models, only mannequins, because he said it made him uncomfortable that the model would be waiting for him to finish. I always wondered who this woman was and why she was covering her face.

Was she trying to make herself beautiful with the haircut? She looked regretful and sad, even behind this mirror. Her legs are crossed, closing off to the viewer. And she isn't really letting anyone in to see who she is. I still don't know who this person is. I tried to research it a little bit. I couldn't find any information, but, um, I really do love this painting.

The style made a huge impression on me. And I remember going home that night and wanting to replicate his line work and the figures. I love the color palettes, the landscape paintings of the dusty yellows, the beiges, the light blues and the grays. Even the way he painted rocks, he made them look like they were ruins and I believe he was mainly known for these landscape paintings. Um, the trees. I remember they also just had this rigidity to them just like his figures and everything just echoed each other. 

I remember meeting him before we left the show. He was an older man, probably in his late seventies, early eighties, I think. He looked extremely kind and warm. Which is, it's kind of funny, the complete opposite of what he painted. I felt excited that I met a living artist with such an extensive body of work. It made me feel really happy that I met a living Armenian artist that I actually admired. I think what I have to say is that I hope more people look his work up and are inspired by it as much as I am. Because he truly sees Armenia in such a contemporary way, which I feel a lot of other people still have not done.


Thanks for listening to Art Personals, a podcast produced by Compound Yucca Valley. You have been listening to Alisha Sofia discuss her encounter with Hagop Hagopian’s A Woman with a Mirror. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please consider supporting this artist whose linocut prints can be found over on our website now at 

Art Personals is produced by me, Caroline Partamian, Lara Wilson, and Michael Townsend in collaboration with our artists. 

Our intern is Emiliano Vazquez.

Original music by Ethan Primason.

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