The art is severe, and at times disturbing.
So is the artist, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who will be in Watertown on Sunday to unveil an exhibit of 16 of his paintings owned by the Armenian Library and Museum of America.
This weekend's planned appearance will be a rare out-of-state trip for Kevorkian, a controversial former pathologist from Michigan who earned the nickname ``Dr. Death'' for assisting an estimated 130 terminally ill patients commit suicide. He is on parole after serving eight years in prison on a 1999 second-degree murder conviction for giving a lethal injection to a 52-year-old man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease.
Kevorkian, 80, is the child of two Armenian genocide survivors, and the anguish suffered by his ancestors is reflected in several of his pieces. "1915 Genocide 1945'' mixes real human blood with paint to commemorate the extinction of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Turkish government, and three decades later, the murder of 6 million Jews under the Nazi German regime.
In a phone interview for a story that will appear in Thursday's Globe West, Kevorkian said he doesn't consider himself an artist, just someone who ``puts in paint the condition of the world that we live in.''
He said he began to paint as a hobby when he was a young man. But he kept delving into the topics of life and death he dealt with as a medical examiner. ``Everyone was painting landscapes and clowns and I couldn't see the value in that. I guess the rebel in me was thinking I'll shock them,'' he recalled.
That provoked him to paint ``Very Still Life,'' a brightly rendered piece of an iris bloom growing through a denuded skull and scattered bones.
Bringing Kevorkian to the Armenian Library and Museum may upset some people who disagree with physican-assisted suicide, acknowledged director Mariam Stepanyan. But the museum's mission is ``to preserve the heritage of Armenians for future generations, and to make it relevant for current generations,'' she said.
The controversial doctor is among the world's most famous Armenian-Americans, she said.
``His art and how he intersects it with religion and the present day is informed by the experience of the Armenian people,'' she said. ``He is very connected to his heritage.''
Kevorkian plans to follow Sunday's Watertown appearance with a forum for Harvard ID holders Monday at Harvard Law School, where he expects to discuss his current run for Congress, among other topics.
-- Erica Noonan