"Blue Talk" by Sarah Barzmehri
By Barbara Awukye
January 30, 1998
Upon arrival to the Evolving Perceptions exhibition, several pairs of eyes seduced me to look closer. The eyes belonged to a veiled woman enclosed in wooden frames. Reflected in the almond-shaped eyes, soldiers stood aiming guns at residents as they appear to scatter for safety. Although the woman's lips are sealed with gauze in the work of art, her eyes tell the viewer about the Iranian revolution in 1979. This work was created by Aylene Fallah, one of the exhibition artists in Evolving Perceptions 1997.
On November 7,1997, the second annual Evolving Perceptions exhibition opened at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. The exhibition was generously sponsored by the Iranian American Cultural Association (IACA) of Washington, DC. The exhibition featured the works of nine contemporary Iranian and Iranian American artists. "In My Country," "This Far and No Further," and "Forgiveness," series of mixed media and multi-layered works encased in wooden frames begin the exhibition and the viewer's journey through the evolving perceptions of identity in Iranian-American style.
In addition to Fallah, this year's exhibit featured the individual works of Maryam Javaheri, Afarin Rahmanifar, Sara Barzmehri, Roshan Houshmand, Bahijeh Mehri, Hadi Tabatabai, Yari Ostovany, and Siba Tarassoly, Iranian and Iranian-American artists using diverse media to either express cultural identity or conceptual aesthetics.
"Many of the artists create works which address the issue of cultural identity," said Maryam Ovissi, director of Evolving Perceptions, Inc. "Some of us retain our culture while others have successfully adapted and
changed. Either way our perceptions have evolved as to how we define ourselves, and the arts is one of the ways to explore and become aware of the search for self identity." For example Roshan Houshmand, who grew up in the Philippines and in Iran creates extraordinary textured canvases which explore conceptual aesthetics while Iranian-born Afarin Rahmanifar focuses on being an Iranian woman in America.
Houshmand's "Amapola" meaning Red Poppy in Spanish, an oil on canvas tableau, depicting a pungent red background divided into 2 squares and 2 rectangles by fine black lines demonstrates her quest for unity and peace. Rahmanifar, on the other hand, examines the effects of American culture on her identity as an Iranian woman. Her "Barbie Series" show collages of Western beauty idols such as Marilyn Monroe and Barbie juxtaposed with traditional Persian elements.
Combining traditional Persian elements with Photoshop software, Sarah Barzmehri is able to capture the solid bright colors of the Qashqaie, nomadic peoples living in southern Iran. Barzmehri, who had hated her first photography course in college says revisiting Iran after several years of living in the U.S. has inspired her forever. "I used my photographs taken in Iran and made them on computer using different Photoshop filters. The work process was very fast with no calculation; just in the way Qashqaie rugs are woven -- spontaneously -- with no blueprint."
Although Evolving Perceptions focused on Iranian-American artists in this exhibit, the organization strives to promote awareness and appreciation of contemporary works of art, music and literary works created by all bi-cultural and second generation artists. Nora Vittur, co-director of Evolving Perceptions, says the organization will be exploring acculturation in America as a theme in their next exhibit, spring of 1998. Evolving Perceptions will also be involved in an exhibition for Iranian women artists at the ninth International Iranian Women's Studies Foundation in June 1998.