World War I was the tragedy that shaped Rita’s parents. Kaspar Thomassian was her Armenian father who was 13 years old when he escaped the Armenian Holocaust in Turkey. Gamila Khoury was her strong-willed conservative mother who lived in Allepo, Syria. Both became refugees down south in the relative safety of Egypt. Hard work made it financially possible for them to get married in Cairo, in 1925. Markrit Thomassian was born in 1933. Rita Asfour is the married name of Markrit Thomassian.
Rita’s elementary education was at the French school, Lycee Francais. In 1960 Rita graduated with a BA in art from the Scuola Internazionale Italiana, Leonardo da Vinci.
Beirut, Lebanon, is where Rita worked for five years drawing illustrations for magazines and book covers.
In 1965 Rita arrived penniless in New York. She confidently walked her portfolio into many Fifth Avenue galleries. They all shrugged her off. So she got further in debt, and flew to Los Angeles where she quickly got a job at Universal Studio Tours. She drew quick pastel sketches of, and for, the passing tourists, at $15 each. Five years later, in 1970, Rita opened her own art gallery, Galerie Camille, on Canon Drive, in Beverly Hills.
Rita sold more than a thousand original paintings, with bravura. She cherishes the appreciation and praise of the buyers, but has a hard time letting go of her art. Her private collection still hides items she created when she was a teenager.
In 2012, after living in Malibu for 30 years, Rita retired in Las Vegas. But the pageantry of the Jubilee Showgirls extravaganza at Bally’s Casino quickly extinguished her retirement dream. She then came up with a new style to portray the allure, glitter, and poise, of the Showgirls. This led to an exhibition at the University and a documentary at PBS.
Rita was never motivated by fame or fortune. She paints for herself. Rita works alone – avoids the outside noise of life – and has a determined and monastic drive to discover and create new things. She sacrificed a lot to get things done her way. To her it was a beautiful jouney.
This is the story and here you will see the artworks of Markrit Thomassian (Rita Asfour).
Rita lived and painted in four continents, and now lives in Las Vegas, after going –around the world in 85 years.