Arlene deR Hagopian
I’d heard so much about Arlene before meeting her; a formidable lady who raised her two daughters (Lori and Linda) to be curious and open to the world. I learned that Arlene took no bull. So naturally I was chomping at the bit to hear the story of how Lori was inspired to start The Stand.
Once a dance instructor, bartender, teacher, and artist, there wasn’t a dull moment in Arlene’s well-rounded life. Coming from a family of gifted artists, Arlene tried her best to provide a creative life for her daughters. She fought to bring young Lori along to her college nude art classes, much to the other students’ dismay.
When asked by her daughter to contribute art to The Stand, Arlene made a series of drawings on matchboxes as well as some sculptures. She tells us that this series was heavily influenced by her fascination with the military. Inspired by her parents’ life during WW2 and her older brother’s draft to the Korean War, she explained “I think it’s the power”. It’s the power contrasting with the beauty of watching these servicemen coming and going at the train station, and their wives and parents throwing kisses.
If you ask either Lori or Arlene, they will tell you that the idea of The Stand originated from Arlene’s bar in Providence, Rhode Island. “I got a good education from that bar” she says with a twinkle in her eyes. “It was a movie that never ended. With clients that included doctors, lawyers, teachers, prostitutes and pimps”. Arlene’s bar provided a stage for this diverse group of people to play out each of their stories. Whether Arlene was feeding the homeless people that would come into her bar, helping a prostitute save up to get out of town, or hearing out a judge’s woes, Arlene moved through the diverse groups of people with authenticity and ease. Meanwhile the 12 year old Lori would sit at the counter after school, studying everybody.
This time of observation helped to develop and nurture the idea of The Stand - where 3 nights a week, something magical happens. Rather than putting up static artwork that is admired at arms length, passersby are encouraged by the abstract chaos to come in and interact. They’re encouraged to stop and chat to Lori for a while, to be impacted by the atmosphere of The Stand. The line blurs between who or what is on show - Lori, the artwork or the passersby. As Arlene puts it, The Stand is Lori’s greatest masterpiece; a performance art piece that draws you in. When you walk pass, you’ve unwittingly became a part of it.
When Arlene talks about Lori, her eyes light up every time. “She was born with a heart defect. People born with a trauma, they have a different strength.” It is obvious that Arlene is fiercely proud of her daughter and the work that she does. Arlene admires how Lori encourages her artists without putting any restrictions on their work, motivating them to work confidently and embrace the weirdness, the outsider in them all.
It’s clear that Arlene is never satisfied and always curious. As we start to wrap up the interview, Arlene is not done. “Now I’m going to switch seats, and you’re (to be interviewed) next…This is what outsiders do you see, they turn the tables on you”.
As we head out, she waves us off, inviting us to Rhode Island where she’ll make us a mean Mudslide cocktail.
Find out more
Enquire about Arlene's artwork at The Stand