I was born and grew up in a society where emphasis on and reinforcement of certain false assumptions and wrong-headed traditions made you a person who had to be either a follower or act in opposition. I chose to move against some of those traditions which had deep roots even among some of the closest people to me. This struggle consumed a great deal of my energy. I can say I came to know myself when painting took form in me. My cousin, Mastaneh, had to be bedridden for life, paralyzed, due to a medical error in a surgery. I was a child of about five at the time, but I became her hands, and drew on white paper the designs she could not. Her kind beautiful eyes would shine upon completion of a design. Strangely, the drawings were taking form, with her feelings and soul, in me. I was just about nine when I lost her. (Later on, I painted Mastaneh, with a theme of awakening, a seated woman with the sun behind her.) After Mastaneh’s death, my older brother Nasser was the most important supporter of my paintings. He was a great reader, and loved to buy me books and art supplies.
This was the era of revolution, closing of universities, and then war….
Nasser, who had passed the exams for study abroad, and ranked first, was in different circumstances; he had to deal with military draft and war. Each time he came to visit from his military duties my heart was beating like a little sparrow. The fear of losing him would not let me sleep. In the last months of his draft, he was sent to the western front, Sare Pol-e-Zahab.
The last time he came to visit, I knew He would not return, my heart was crying. He never came back, to ask me ‘well, what have you drawn today?’ (Later, in the exhibition “Death Play,” I showed my anger and hatred of war by creating 147 glass heads of horses which in arrangement plus a video art portrayed a massacre of horses. All sculptures were subsequently donated to charity so the sale proceeds could be used in support of homeless women and children.)
I was twelve; all my efforts were in going to hospitals and helping the war casualties. An old lady in the neighborhood would collect donations, and called on me, and we would go to the hospitals that held the injured.
The war continued, and I was getting taller. I was fifteen when I faced a first obstacle. An administrator of a home for the disabled asked that I would no longer be taken there. My world grew dark, as I felt the bridge I had to my brother was being destroyed. The reason they were refusing me was my height. I was unaware that I had grown taller, and now the obstacles were beginning to show themselves.
I focused my time on studying and painting. Murmurs could be heard around me. My three older sister had married around my age, and all three marriages were within the family. In my family, this was almost the norm, a practice that in my mind was questionable. There was added difficulty too as my childhood playmates had now turned into youths who wanted to play the role of future husband.
To refuse the in-family marriage requests, I had to act like a rebel, which made grandmothers upset and other family members unhappy. (I portrayed shedding these layers in the film ‘Awakening,’ by creating layers that had to be pushed aside so a woman could see her own existence, layers rooted in society’s false traditions.)
Years later I married someone who had no family relations with us. My wedding day coincided with a stage in painting exams at the university. My parents were very worried. My father asked me, ‘do you know what you are doing?’ I told him life is not predictable. I will do my best to make a good life. I was a sophomore when I found out I was pregnant. Gradually I could see that I was alone carrying this pregnancy. Smell of paint nauseated me and I was trying not to fall behind at the university. (Paintings of my impressionistic period are sad women, my own feelings at the time.)
Little by little I could understand that my joint life was not only divided but had ended. Divorce, according to social and family tradition, was unthinkable.
In those years, I defended my thesis on the Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaton, who took one wife and built an ideal city of people dressed in white. Akhnaton was breaking traditions, even in drawings and sculptures, and attended to the god of Aton. My paintings of this period, even though formal and abstract, clearly show the feel and environment of my life at this time. I went on to the Masters program in painting. This was the time when I was wandering about in the courts for my divorce.
Working with another artist, using ice, we presented a conceptual work in the first biennial of conceptual arts in 1380, which was accepted and ended up at the museum of contemporary arts.
If you are an artist of the female gender, many questions form in the minds of others. Like, “Why can’t you be like other women?” “Why don’t you paint behind an easel like other painters?” “Does a woman do smithery?” “Why would a woman go to glass factories on the south side of town and make things with glass?” Many a time, these trials and missteps, in certain ways and places, unfamiliar to others and inconsistent with their standards, formed my artistic expression. In such places doing such things, I would forget location and time, and submerge in my own artistic space.
For me, as a conceptual artist, factories were places where I would forget all the blues. My art work would take shape with metalwork, working with PVC, making masks, or animal skin and leather. Concurrently at this time, the laws took custody of my child away from me. It is impossible to recount the extent of my suffering in that period. (The ‘Blue Rhythm’ exhibition was an introductory presentation of how I suffered in this connection. This exhibition included a film, directed by Masoud Vatankhahi, in which I appeared, plus a presentation of some of my works.)
I would like to make a point, in conclusion, to the reader thumbing through this book and viewing the images. Every exhibition is a chapter of my life which has passed and you and I are sitting in its judgement. You are looking at pieces of my life in these formalist and conceptualist works.
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