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The Independent, 04/24/2001
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Russian-Armenian
artist battles with

the INS to stay in

the country


By Jeff Carter

Independent Newspapers


BELMONT - When Greg Orduyan

became the Moscow Golden

Gloves champion back in 1987,

some wondered if the 16-year-old

of Russian-Armenian decent

would pursue the dream of win-

ning an Olympic medal.

Hardly.

As someone dripping with artis-

tic talent, Orduyan, who first

picked up a paint brush at 3, had a

much bigger dream of coming

to California and making it in the

art world.

"This is the artists' paradise,"

said Orduyan, now 30 and living


BOXER: page 4A

PrevThe Independent, April 24, 2001Next
NOT PAINTED INTO A CORNER
PHOTO: SUSAN CALDWELL GRAPHIC : V.C ROSS
BOXER: Artist trying to remain in country
 
Continued from 1A

in a modest Belmont apart-
ment with his parents.
Although as a boxer he won
15 of 16 amateur bouts in the
former U.S.S.R, Orduyan was
born to paint and create.
His dad. Nick Orduyan, has
an easel set up on their
Belmont patio, and it doesn't
take an art expert to recog-
nize that his colorful and
intricate ceramic mosaics
are the work of a master, a
labor of love by someone
who has devoted his whole
life to his craft.
"What can I say? It's like
those 'circus families.' If the
parents are in the circus,
naturally, that's what their
children want to do. I was
just [lucky] enough to be
born to a couple of Russian
hippies," said Orduyan.
But even though Orduyan
has scaled heights few artists
ever know, having his own
art shows in New York City,
he only has a few years left
before the he turns 34 and
becomes too old to be an
amateur boxer.
Orduyan - a 6-foot-3, 260-
pound heavyweight - religiously
goes to P.A.L. Gym or
Gladiators Training Academy
in Redwood City, even if only
for his lunch break from his
job as a video game designer
with Komani.
"Let's face it, I'm not your
typical artist. There's this
stereotype that all artists are
a bunch of sissies. When peo-
ple see my work, they can't
believe how masculine it is,
how much energy is there,"
said Orduyan. "And when
I'm at the gym, if I tell some-
one I'm an artist, they can't
believe it.
Because he was busy prepar-
ing life drawings for last
week's New York premiere,
Orduyan didn't compete in
last month's San Francisco
Golden Gloves competition -
"mainly because he's got a
bigger fight on his hands.
Orduyan is currently locked
in the clinches with the
Immigration and
Naturalization Service, try-
ing to obtain a green card
visa for permanent residen-
cy.
There are three means by
which an alien may receive
permanent U.S. residency -
family-based, employment
and political asylum.
According to Orduyan's
attorney, Ron Wada of San
Francisco, Orduyan filed
under the employment appli-
cation, one for "Alien with
an Extraordinary Ability in
the Arts."
Although Orduyan - who
has lived in this country for
10 years starting with New
York for four years, Chicago
for one, and Belmont for the
past five - was last approved


'When people see
my work, they
can't believe how
masculine it is,
how much energy
is there.'


Greg Orduyan,
boxer



in March of 1998 as having
extraordinary ability, his
paperwork was lost by the
INS, according to Wada.
"Once a person clears the
'extraordinary' hurdle,
there's also something com-
mon to all applicants in that
they must pass a medical
exam, and FBI background
check. Somewhere between
the first phase and the sec-
ond his paperwork was lost
 

by the INS," said Wada.
That was down at the INS
Customer Service center in
Laguna Niguel by a case
worker different from the
one who notified Orduyan in
March in San Francisco that
he again needed to provide
documented evidence of his
"extraordinary artistic abili-
ty," something he'd already
done according to his father.
There is no deadline as to
when the INS needs to certify
his residency status - which
still contains the possibility
of deportation - but
Orduyan, said his attorney,
has until June 25 to adhere
to the INS' request.
"What it comes down to is
who runs out of options first.
It's almost like, who's going
to get tired first, and who's
going to be the first to quit,"
said Orduyan.
In these past few weeks to
satisfy the INS, Orduyan has
lined up five art shows, three
in New York, one in San
Francisco, and another on
the Peninsula, all to go with-
in the next month.
There are plenty of people
working in Orduyan's cor-
ner, an impressive list of art
gallery owners, artists, and
professional acquaintances
he's made along the way
when he first arrived on the
New York art scene 10 years
ago.
"I am an artist who has
been given the Extraordinary
Visa and green card for

Extraordinary Ability in the
Arts," world-renowned artist
Valery Boyakjon wrote in a
letter to the INS. "I am giving
my highest recommendation
for contemporary artist
Gregory Orduyan. I consider
him an unequalled artist,
who seems determined to
make a great contribution to
society through his art."
One gets the impression
that if a daughter brought
him home to meet her par-
ents, the mother would lean
back from the kitchen table
and cast a wink and a
thumbs up.
"I've known Greg for almost
10 years," said Minerva
Durham, director of Spring
Studio in New York. "That
was back when he supported
himself at first by working in
a bakery all night. He's an
extraordinary individual. In
all that time, he's the only
student of mine who ever
said, 'I thank you, and my
family thanks you.' That's
pretty rare, because artists
are such individuals."
Orduyan earned the highest
marks while attending art
school and graduated from
the College of Art in

Krasnopresnenskaya in
Moscow.
Once Orduyan hit New York
in 1991, word quickly spread
about the sensational young
Russian, although Orduyan
downplays his superstardom.
Some of Orduyan's oil
paintings have sold for as
much as $5,000, but others,
like "Taxi Blues" - which
hangs near the kitchen of
Orduyan's apartment that
doubles as a personal art
gallery - are essentially
priceless because they have
so much sentimental value.
"We would never consider
selling any of these paint-
ings. These are like our own
children."
For someone with a signa-
ture piece entitled "Queen of
Fate," Orduyan remains
unsure of his own.
That will be left up to the
INS, and according to
Orduyan, "To be considered,
'an extraordinary achiever,'
you almost have to win an
Academy Award or have your
[art]work shown at the
Museum of Modern Art. The
problem with that is, most of
the artists shown there, or at
Guggenheim, are all dead."