Nasim Hantezadeh and summer stone fruit

In three colorful panels, several hairy, flower-like, person-like, elongated and distorted forms meander about in one two-dimensional scene.
Nasim Hantezadeh, Felt like soft bedsheets, we were holding hands…, 2020. Left and right panels: oil pastel, dry pastel, color pencil, and graphite on paper; middle panel: oil paint, oil stick, and watercolor on canvas. Left (paper): 84 x 48 inches; middle (canvas): 84 x 72 x 1.5 inches; right (paper): 84 x 24 in. Overall dimensions: 84 x 144 inches.

Iranian-American artist Nasim Hantezadeh works in the space of memory. Accessing, acknowledging, and responding to her own recollections, she configures her paintings, drawings, and sculpture as mnemonic mechanisms for us as the viewer. The first time I saw Felt like soft bed sheets, we were holding hands (2020) , I remembered sitting on the cold slab of concrete behind my childhood home in Ohio, spitting sucked-clean cherry pits into the grass, and feeling what I now recognize as contentment. I was a visitor two-fold: one in Hantezadeh’s intimate expression of memory, another in the folds of my childhood. 

Somewhere in between abstract and figurative, Felt like soft bed sheets is a vibrant, biomorphic patchwork of pastels, paints, and pencils from Hantehzadeh’s most recent series “Orgasmic,” a collection of work that canvases themes of heritage, trauma, sexuality, gender, and memory. Memory, as Hantezadeh shows us with her unrestrained forms and organic outlines, is intricate and ataxic, ambiguous yet apparent. Like art, food is intimately attached to memory. As with art, what we consume engages all our senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, touch—and can arouse emotion and a forgotten familiarity with certain events, places, or people.

In viewing Felt like soft bedsheets, I found myself describing the textures and colors with the vocabulary of food: rich and creamy, pulpy and raw, charred and meaty. True to the series  title, “Orgasmic,” I registered the phallic and orifice-like figures and watched them melt into flowers and fruit on the canvas in front of me. The piece is distinctly physical, with its coils of genitalia, organs, eyes, and muscle. Still, I projected visions of food on the triptych, reshaping the forms into a picnic of stone fruit and entering my own chasm of memory.

I am eleven, collecting cherries pits and saliva in a white ceramic bowl and listening to the shrieking cicadas. I am somewhere in between a memory and a dream, remembering how the color of the sky in that moment made me feel safe, recognizing that I will never feel that way in that place again. In honor of this, I pair this piece with a collection of fruit that feels nostalgic to me: fleshy apricots, fuzzed peaches, and tart red cherries. If I were feeling exceptionally decadent, I’d pair this piece with a glass of Sassara Vin de Anfoa, a full, orange-hued skin contact wine with flavors of honeyed apricot and lemon that reminds me of my favorite month, June.