Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vahdat's Art Work Is Both Harsh and Beautiful

Saideh Jamshidi

Last April, Fahimeh Vahdat, a Milwaukee artist who uses her experience and background in her paintings to raise awareness about women’s rights and freedom, talked to a group of students at the University of Wisconsin. At this event, sponsored by Project Nur, the student-led initiative of the American Islamic Congress, at the University of Wisconsin, Vahdat stated that she views her paintings as “an instrument to uncover painful issues and bring about positive changes by recognizing the suffering.”

As a teenage girl growing up in Iran, Vahdat observed first hand, the turmoil of revolution. She experienced also experienced the execution of her family members for being of the Bahaii minority religion. Vahdat had to flee the country with her husband and infant girl. They came to the United States in 1981.

At the time, aggravated by the hostage crisis, the US and Iran’s relationship was at its worst. In Vahdat’s words: “The US wasn’t fun. There were a lot of prejudices against Iranians. As soon as you open your mouth and you say you were from Iran, you became one dimensional. All of the other human aspects of you were diminished immediately.” But Vahdat fought back. Only a few years into her immigration, she had learned English and could blend in comfortably with the American culture. “I refused to be treated differently by people, Vahdat said. “I said, I am equal to everybody else, man or woman. I have a different ethnicity which I am proud of.” Eventually, Vahdat enrolled in a community college in Dallas, Texas; then transferred her credits to an MFA program in painting and printmaking at Southern Methodist University.

As a young artist, she became increasingly sensitive to the discrimination against women she observed in Dallas. Vahdat decided to show this pain and suffering in her painting, but her outspokenness did not come without a cost. In one of her public solo shows, in Mountain View College, four of her paintings were knifed by an angry man. “I bet if I was there, I would have been attacked,” she said.

Due to the strong messages expressed in her paintings, some of her works have been censored in Dallas as well as in other places. Julie Shapiro, Vahdat’s professor in SMU commented on the public response: “What I have told her very recently is that her work has a powerful combination of the visual and theoretical,” Shapiro said “I know some people almost feel the work is too powerful. They do not want to deal with that kind of imagery.”

In her private gallery at home, she hung a giant painting of a naked woman bend over, bloody and beaten. A transparent dark fabric hangs over the figure. Vahdat has placed a pile of stone below the paining for a crime of adultery for women in Iran.

there is also another giant painting laid out on the floor titled: “Am I To Be Wed?” In it, we see a naked young girl in the center of the painting standing on a pile of lilies wearing nothing b a ring around her neck. Persian poetry is written behind the girl. There is no color other than black and white. “Color can evoke emotions,” Vahdat said. “I wanted to strip my work from all of these deductive elements.”

Vahdat’s devotion to bringing awareness to injustice is unbreakable. Currently, she is working on a body of printmaking dealing with the recent upheaval in Iran. In June 2009, the Iranian government opened fire on angry demonstrators who were asking for a revote after President Ahmadinejad claimed his victory. In one of her unfinished works, Vahdat has written Persian poetry on a long red canvas. She is planning to attach pictures of those killed in the demonstrations including Neda Aghasoltan, the young and famous girl murdered by a stranger in one of the street protests whose death was caught on a camera-phone and distributed in the Internet. Vahdat also dedicated a piece of long canvas, 4 to 6 feet, the same size of the cells in the Kahrizak prison, where many people were murdered and tortured after June 2009. Although the canvas is painted in a dark color, there is light coming through a small window in the painting. “The light of hope shining through all of these events,” Vahdat says.

Although criticized for the harsh reality she demonstrates in her art works, Vahdat sees beauty in all of these works. “There are lots of flowers that symbolize different themes, or there are poems that I have chosen for my paintings,” she said, “One cannot help but to see beauty in all of these.”

1 comment:

Yaqub Mayom said...

nice job.. best of LUCK