Land as Muse: Contemporary Art Concepts from Edmonton/34th Annual Members’ Show
Curated by: Asal Andarzipour, Darren Kooyman and Jacek Malec | 2022 | Harcourt House Artist Run Centre | Edmonton, AB
Art-O-Rama 2021: Annual Sale Fundraiser
Curated by: Asal Andarzipour, Darren Kooyman and Jacek Malec | 2021 | Harcourt House Artist Run Centre | Edmonton, AB
I was born in Iran in 1991 into a female body under patriarchy, and grew into mixed feelings about femalehood, and estranged from my body. Went to gender-segregated schools. Puberty was a mess. Learned how to navigate an unequal education system and excelled at it. By 18 I was struggling with my identity both within the traditional system of family, and as an individual within broader society. Both institutions had failed me. I meditated through the late 2000s sketching the body, during long hours with nude models in the underground studios of my hometown, Tehran. That technical practice of observational figurative-drawing formed the core of my practice for the next decade. Meanwhile I began exercising my voice as a citizen seeking social justice. I felt unheard. My art became my activism. I moved to North America in pursuit of equality. In New York State I explored the potential of sustainable design in making opportunities accessible to those currently disadvantaged by disabilities, aging, and gender inequality. At the University of Alberta, I studied the history of visual culture with a focus on Orientalist displays in the 19th century Europe. I started questioning the old stereotypes; the oppressed Middle-Eastern woman in particular, and started seeing the bigger picture of interwoven systems of power and control all over “modern” society that persist the patriarchy. An innocent comment by a peer on my choice of clothing or hairstyle, a slip-of-the-tongue comment by a date I turned down. I realized that the oppression of the female body is not to be blamed on, and reduced to the “Middle-Eastern man”. My body was again the centre of attention. My art became an escape from the stereotyped Oriental woman subject of the Gaze. My art now is my therapy. My practice today is a reflection of a childhood of being put in a box, a youth not lived, spent arrested for speaking up, and exhausted by immigration.
"Finding Home Everywhere" | Collaboration with Hossein Andarzipour | 2018 | Zen Centre of Syracuse, NY
I was born in Tehran, Iran. I grew up in a capital city where East and West meet; some call it the Middle East. I was fortunate enough to be raised in a middle-class family that supports the arts and embraces all cultures and religions.
Due to the political complexities and the strict Islamic atmosphere in my country, I was resistant to spiritual practice, except for reading poetry by Rumi and Hafiz in Persian to inspire my heart. In 2009, I attended the Faculty of Fine Arts in the University of Tehran, where I became an active part of the Iranian student movement and experienced consequences due to my participation in protests.
In 2015, as a graduate student, I gave up my studies and flew to the United States, seeking for a welcoming new home. I started working on my MFA at Syracuse University. Weeks after arrival, home-sickness began, and there was no way to stop and deal with it in the fast-paced Western society. A friend suggested meditation, and that is how I began sitting, after an introduction by the Student Buddhist Association at Hendricks Chapel. Rather than trying to escape the situation, I began to contemplate the question, "Where is Home?".
We live in a time when technology has transformed family communications. I have spent many hours on video calls and virtual presence to be in touch with my home. But happily, spending some hours in zazen helped me face the realities of immigration and loneliness in our world. Thanks to the generosity of Shinge Roshi and the Sangha, I was a resident at Dai Bosatsu Zendo and the Zen Center of Syracuse for most of my time in this country.
Zen practice has given me the courage to focus on my artwork, push the boundaries of personal creativity and expand it to a universal family of humans, animals, trees, and rocks. So, watching the foggy Beecher Lake in the Catskills autumn felt like home, as did walking on the sidewalk covered with snow in the town of Syracuse, or sharing a Persian dish with chopsticks with American Zen friends!
All through these years, I have had the personal study and practice of visual arts to calm my mind. However, this exhibition is the first display of my artwork to communicate my life experience. The photography section is a collaboration with my brother Hossein Andarzipour, who kindly captured corners of my family house in Tehran in my absence/virtual presence. Virtual life, real life or Zen life, I see them as a whole.
Facing challenges as an Iranian citizen in the U.S., now is the time to migrate again. The past has taught me about unexpectedness. The future is uncertain. At this moment, I just bow down to the Sangha for sitting with me. Shinge Roshi, thank you for the opportunity.