I was 10 years old, sitting in the courtyard of our house in Teheran one afternoon when my brother came running in with a stack of postcards. "Look at these!" he exclaimed. They were prints of paintings by a group of Russian artists called the travelers, paintings of barge haulers on the Volga, Cossacks writing a letter to the Turkish king, and the return of a jailed man to his family. I had never seen paintings like this. I had yet to visit a museum and had only seen Persian miniatures in poetry books, and a few murals in our old house. I was in awe. I gazed at each painting once, twice, 5, 10, 15 times till the scenes were imprinted on my mind.
Over the following months, a slew of cultural tokens from the North and West streamed into our courtyard: paintings by Ilya Repin, Vasily Perov, Surikov and books by Jules Verne, Victor Hugo, Stephan Zweig, Tolstoy, and Hemingway---whatever treasures my brother could procure from the Iranian-Russian Friendship Society or bookstores in downtown Teheran. We stacked the books on the shelf--I would read them years later. But the paintings I kept close at hand, beside my bed or in my pocket.
Then one day, my brother, the little ambassador of culture, came back from the bazaar with a bag full of surprises-- canvas, brushes, and wooden sticks with which to make a frame, linseed oil, and small paper packages with vibrant pigments of azure blue, canary yellow, vermillion, and emerald green. "Now we can paint pictures ourselves!" he told me.
I was amazed and fell in love with every aspect of this new endeavor, mixing the oil with the bright powders, watching my brother stretch the canvas, nail it to the frame, and cover it with a layer of white gypsum. I watched him attempt his first painting, a basket of apples which magically emerged on the canvas within a few hours. I taught myself to paint through imitation of the simpler paintings we had in our piles of postcards and continued by copying some of the masterpieces I had accumulated over the years--an old beggar who looked like a sage, a lady in red sulking beside her lover.
It had not yet occurred to me to paint what I saw around me even though my surroundings were lush with beauty. Our small courtyard garden was vibrant with the blossoms of cherry trees, pansies, hyacinth in springtime, and roses in summertime. The old streets of Teheran had clay colored buildings with arches and stunning mosaics. In the middle of the summer, I would sleep on the rooftop, lying on my back with my arms outstretched, staring at the sky with its thousand and thousand of stars. I felt like I was holding the whole dome of the sky within the expanse of my arms and when I squinted my eyes, and looked at each single star, I thought I could see it dancing in the breeze of the late night. But I would't paint any of this for years, and when I did, these scenes would be resurrected only in patches, as if in dreams.
When I attended college and medical school, I painted less and less frequently. Then I moved to America. I was a doctor and a mother, and for many years only dreamt of art, observing it with longing and awe as I leafed through our growing collection of art books or stood before paintings on occasional trips to the museum.
Then one day, after dropping my children off at a class, I passed Pearl Art Store on Route 17 in New Jersey. Something compelled me to take the next exit and turn around. This was well before Pearl became a superstore. The store was charming, the aisles were narrow and cramped and the wooden shelves were crowded with paints and brushes. I was giddy with excitement. For the first time in decades, I bought my supplies. I started painting again by copying the masters, this time a few paintings by Magritte. But I quickly grew bored of imitating, and realized it was time to paint my own visions.
My paintings are mostly inspired by visions I have when I wake in the early morning. I will often spend days thinking about what I've seen before I put brush to canvas. I've never attached myself to any style or school of painting, though a dream-like irrationality has always emerged in my work. Over the last 24 years, I have managed to create a body of work in the cracks of time between mothering and doctoring. This work has never been exhibited publicly and is presented here for the first time.
The poet Robert Bly once said, "A painting is a pitcher full of the invisible." The invisible is the backstory--my story, and the stories that viewers project onto the painting. The invisible is what springs in our own imagination when we view a painting, it is how we connect the dots, or fill in the blanks. I have heard various interpretations of some of my paintings, and I enjoy the multiplicity of ideas that have been evoked. I have not attempted to offer something linear or representational. In my paintings, there are images, there are suggestions, and there is space for the viewer to imagine. My hope is that the paintings will stimulate thought and stir the spirit and emotions of the people who view them.
****This site is dedicated to my brother in appreciation for his curious mind and generous spirit****