GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An ArtPrize Final 20 artist behind a captivating painting of Jesus is defending his use of an internet image for inspiration.

During Monday’s “Why These Finalists?” show on WOOD TV8, art critic Sharon Louden said she was “disappointed” and felt like Mher Khachatryan was misleading when he told her he chose his image from multiple sources.

Louden and fellow panelist Jeffery Augustine Songco pointed to an image from the media library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which looked very similar.

“I’ve seen that image over and over again. And I really think, too, that this is an opportunity for artists to do something different. Even if he wanted to convey Jesus, he should’ve, I think conveyed it from his personal vision that could’ve been different,” said Louden.

Tuesday, Khachatryan told 24 Hour News 8 he’s always been up front with ArtPrize visitors.

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“I never hide that I used an image. So when I started to paint, this is one of the most common questions people ask me, ‘You think he looks that way? Where’s your inspiration? Where’d you get the image?’ And I told everyone that asked that I found that image on the internet. And the reason I did it is because I wanted to create not what he looks like, it didn’t matter what he looks like. What mattered, I wanted to share who he is,” Khachatryan explained.

Khachatryan said the image he discovered embodied the essence of Jesus.

“When I saw the image, I saw love, kindness, compassion and acceptance in those eyes and I took that image and I wanted to paint it because it really spoke to me, as a Christian man, as an artist,” he said.

Khachatryan said he used multiple sources to create his piece. He said the image of Jesus wasn’t high resolution, so he turned to other sources to come up with the texture he used.

“I encourage everyone to come and see it because the picture online doesn’t do it justice. I’d really love them to come experience it in life, and see how his eyes actually follow you, in any angle you stand in, you look at him,” he said.

Khachatryan said he chose to focus on Jesus because of his strong ties to art and Christianity. He said his home country, Armenia, accepted Christianity in 301 A.D., becoming the first Christian country in the world.

“Sometimes the bread wasn’t available, we were borrowing here and there, but it was a happy time because we’re happy to be Christian,” he said.

Khachatryan said he started painting and drawing under candlelight when he was 5 years old.

“It’s a big part of me. When I put my life, my soul, my heart into my work,” he added.

Khachatryan’s painting, “Jesus,” is on display at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum through ArtPrize, which ends Oct. 7.



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