89-year-old artist gives Cher the Madonna look

by Tom Vartabedian

Published: Sunday April 07, 2013

Artist Charles Garo Takoushian, 89, with his eclectic painting of Cher in a Madonna-Child pose.

Scottsdale, Ariz. - Charles Garo Takoushian happens to be an 89-year-old artist who isn't too old for exploitation.

But old enough to gain some respect, especially when you liken Cher to Madonna. Not the singer, mind you, but the Blessed Mother.

And in her arms, she's cradling the Infant Jesus.

It might be something you'd find in a supermarket tabloid, hardly an artist's studio in Arizona. Takoushian happens to be steeped in his Christian faith, especially after surviving a near-fatal mishap nearly 25 years ago.

"As for the image of Cher as a Madonna, I thought --- well --- she is a Madonna," he explains. "When I first saw Cher's picture on the cover of a magazine, I felt there was a similarity to Madonna. When you get down to the reality of it all, who knew what the Madonna really looked like?"

As an artist, Takoushian says he sees beauty in virtually everything around him, even in dark situations. All that is negative gets turned into a positive at the stroke of a brush.

"In Cher's case, her beauty continues to prevail, despite the years that have befallen her," he points out. "She's accomplished so very much with her life and hasn't forgotten her Armenian heritage. I took some liberties with the painting."

Takoushian completed his Cher painting last April. It shows the actress with her wind-swept hair inside a halo with the Christ child in both hands over a 2-toned blue backdrop. The Christ child's arms are outstretched. He titles it "Lady Madonna and Child," despite the Cher look.

Don't get the idea that Takoushian is some type of charlatan in the real world. Hardly the sort. Maybe his ideas are a little far-fetched but that's the artist in him.

He's been painting since the age of 10 and has amassed quite the portfolio over time. Canvas art ranks up there with his stain glass work and sculpturing skills. Musical instruments he's collected have been donated to a museum in Phoenix and served as an educational tool.

The oldest of four children, his father and uncle were both genocide survivors. The Turks did a number on his family. A grandfather was killed by a firing squad. A grandmother died en route to Der Zor.

After settling in New York, Takoushian attended Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades where he learned to repair aircraft. He became president of an art club where he honed his skills.

After graduation, he served as a gunner aboard a B-24 Liberator during World War 2. Upon discharge, he studied art and design at the Pratt Institute while also working as a photoengraver.

In 1982, he and wife Louise moved to Arizona and have been happily married for 66 years. They've been blessed with three children: son Jeffrey, an oud player; another son Robert, who studied clarinet under Khachig Kazarian, and daughter Susan, a pianist. Two grandsons are helping make guitars.

To help pass the retirement years fruitfully, he continued studying art at Glendale Community College. He's lectured to groups on the history of musical instruments and served on a Police Reserve Pistol Team, where he became a top target shooter.

Takoushian looks over his life with a great deal of pride, taking nothing for granted and everything as a blessing from above.

"Just surviving almost 90 years has been an accomplishment," he maintains.

In 1985, he had been told by a radiologist that he had an 85 percent blockage of his right carotid artery and survived.

As to the Cher painting, it's been offered to the hospital that performed the life-saving surgery. And it served as a focal point during an exhibit at St. Apkar's Armenian Church festivities last November.

Will Cher ever get to see it?

"I offered it to her but never got an answer from her agents," he lamented.

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