L to R, "Self Portrait: Sanctioned", "Still Life: Haft Sin" by Taravat Talepasand

Iranian artists seem to be the subject of many exhibits in the past few years, but one of our favorites has managed to impress us yet again with her work alongside her emotional, physical, and mental strength.

Contemporary Iranian-American artist extraordinaire and our good friend, Taravat Talepasand, who recently survived a major life experience–one that we hope you won’t ever have to go through–a near fatal accident…is now more alive than she was before the unfortunate occurrence.

Despite her life-altering blow, Talepasand has persevered through her pain in true Persian fashion and has realigned her energy and focus on her artwork, almost full time.

Her story and purpose has left us beyond touched and inspired: Taravat simply seems to have it all under control; her work, her life, and her future…A trait many aspire to.

Enjoy our enlivening interview with an Iranian girl whose work is fearless, forward, beautiful and intelligent: Her choice of colors generally leave us transfixed and yearning for an empty space on our wall(s) to fill with her work.


PEM: What was the inspiration behind your latest collection, “The Corrupt Minority”?
TT: I found this article that inspired the title…Ahmadinejad’s “cultural campaign” against “badly-veiled” woman is ridiculous. As if wearing it isn’t enough, stating that all women (living inside or outside of Iran) are a corrupt minority is the root of all my new work.

Being a minority is a basic theme in all my work. Being called a corrupt minority from another Iranian boils my blood, but  encourages my right to be taboo.

Anatomy and nudity seem to be constants in your work, why do you think that is?
I define my work to be autobiographical, figurative in every way. Nudity and exploitation of the female body has been a continuous fascination of mine ever since I was young, as well for men since the beginning of time. What is deemed “taboo” from one culture offers me the opportunity to conceptualize it in my own work. The women found naked or posing seductively in my work are all Iranian women, living outside of Iran  found online. The sharing of information and images from around the world has become an obsession of mine, and is prominent in almost all my work. What is deemed inappropriate or wrong in one culture is juxtaposed by another acceptable culture. Again, the teetering back and forth between two traditions and cultures of East and West creates a completely different visual culture in itself.

You choose to feature yourself in your work, how does that make you feel?
Powerful. I’m not afraid to use myself in my work since the conceptualizing, making and experiential aspect of my work always involves myself. Honestly, the decision to use myself in my work was easy, but in Corrupt Minority I begin to disguise myself as Pinocchio,sculptural forms and objects of desire or scrutiny. Disguising myself is a means of describing the layers in which we define ourselves to the public.

How would you say your accident has changed your life? 
My perception on life, love and my work has become more precious then ever before. Being hit by a car and suffering with severe head trauma literally scrambled my brain. I’ve lost some ability to learn and use language, but the accident did’t effect my artistic thought provoking side. The accident [sparked] a closer relationship with my family, friends and a lover who have all supported my recovering and studio work. The accident encouraged a heightened awareness of modern & traditional concerns. The new paintings, drawings, and porcelain sculpture is not polite or cloying at [a] poor woman’s plight.

Can you describe what happened?
I was walking across Mission street when a car hit me trying to turn left. I was in the ICU and hospital for three days. The driver is uninsured and is nowhere to be found. The police had stopped the driver and filed a report, without an alcohol test and without providing proof of insurance let her go free. Now with over 60k of hospital bills I’m left with the idea that there is no justice, no matter where you live.

Where did you find the strength to get back to life and work?
Positive Mental Attitude. Since the accident I lost my job teaching at several universities, thus the amount of free time to work was the one positive trade for the accident. Doctors advised me not to work for six months, but after one month I was drawing and painting again. My work is a lifestyle, I continue to work to define myself and the world we live in, such tragedies create a fuel to inspire and create.

What’s the emotion behind this series of work?
Proud of my heritage and saddened for both countries that are conflicted.

How long did it take you to create these pieces?
Less than one year. Isn’t that crazy?!

What does this series represent for you?
Beautiful, painstakingly, meticulous work representing various cultures that define a modern & traditional lifestyle.

What is your favorite piece and why?
Tough question. I love them all. Sanctioned was the first painting in this series, and everyone loves it. It defines myself as an object from Iran and now sanctioned from the United States. Still Life: Half Sin and Reprise De Justice (Presumption of Justice) describe a newer direction with concentrated composition and allegorical nuances of color defining the difference between men and women. However, Dokhtare Bahar and Andarooni, Birooni, Lies and Man to me are so beautiful, delicate and really push the boundaries of how the Islamic republic of Iran perceive women and the power women truly hold.

Your color usage is great–what inspired the palette?
I wanted bright, powerful colors to define cultural differences between two genders. The palette was also inspired by tradition historical paintings where blues define women, religion and struggle.

What’s next?
More epic work! More egg tempera paintings, drawings, and porcelain sculptures.

About Author

Sanaz Khalaj-Santos

Sanaz is Founder and Editor in Chief of Persianesque Magazine.