Washington psychiatrist Alen Salerian is no stranger to the visual arts. His mother, Kristin Saleri, was a painter of some note in his native Turkey, and two years ago he got into a dustup with his landlord about a statuary garden he placed in front of his Friendship Heights office. Saleri died in 2006; Salerian told City Paper‘s Jessica Gould at the time that the garden was a tribute to her.
Her death also helped trigger Salerian’s most recent artistic impulse, the more than 100 paintings he’s done about President Kennedy. That, and the death of Salerian’s friend Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor who was assassinated in early 2007.
“I’m not a painter,” Salerian says in the offices of the Washington Center for Psychiatry, where his paintings adorn most of the public surfaces—-the foyer, the reception desk, two reception rooms. There are 38 paintings on view here, and Salerian has plans for an exhibit of his complete JFK oeuvre at a different venue to coincide with the 46th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22. “I do Kennedy research. I began investigating his life, and the discoveries I made profoundly affected me and depressed me,” he says.
Salerian read more than 180 works on Kennedy, says Rebecca McClellan, who helped Salerian organize the exhibition and named many of the paintings.
“I stopped my JFK research, and then magically, I started painting,” Salerian says. “After 35 or 40 of them I vented my soul and felt free.”
Salerian has since published a paper that he says proves that the JFK autopsy was a fake. The official story of Kennedy’s assassination, he says, is “for children. That’s a kids’ story I will not even tell my kids.”
The Zapruder film, Salerian says, is fraudulent, too. Pointing to a painting based on a frame from it, he says that the colors are still really nice in it. A friend has told him he’d hang this one in his house.
Loyalty, another painting from a Zapruder image, shows Jackie Kennedy clambering over the presidential limousine post-shots, gathering pieces of the president’s brains. Salerian, who was a 16-year-old in Istanbul at the time of the assassination, does not like to pick a favorite painting—-“They’re all my babies,” he says—-but this one is special to him. “That was the first one,” he says.
Several of Salerian’s paintings depict a spiritual connection between Kennedy and President Obama. “Not to be divisive but to integrate and unite,” he says. “That to me is the Kennedy spirit.”
“Did you hear that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize?” McClellan asks him.
“They should give it to Kennedy,” Salerian says.
“Magnificent Journey,” the exhibition of Salerian’s Kennedy paintings, is on view Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m to 5 p.m., to Oct. 25 at the Washington Center for Psychiatry, 5225 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Free. 202-244-9000, ext. 300.
Image at top: Loyalty, by Alen Salerian, 2008