We are thrilled to announce our new show, Bloom شكوفه, celebrating Women’s History Month, Spring (Newruz), and life. We are featuring five refugee and immigrant Iranian visual artists based in the Bay Area. This show is dedicated to those fighting for freedom in all shapes and forms every day and to the young Iranian and Kurdish women and men who lost their lives in the streets of Tehran and other cities in Iran. Their voices live on and continue to inspire change against cruel regimes, which are one of the reasons that push people to leave their homeland for safety and a better future. This exhibit marks the one-year anniversary of Refugee Eye Gallery.
Our show opens Saturday, March 4, from 5:30–8:30 PM and begins with a poetry reading with author Rooja Mohassessy. Rooja will read from her latest book, When Your Sky Runs Into Mine, a memoir in verse recounting one woman’s transnational migrations through multiple cultures and across several borders. An ekphrastic conversation between niece and uncle, Rooja Mohassessy’s poems pay homage to her uncle, the prominent Iranian painter and sculptor Bahman Mohassess (1931–2010), who facilitated her migration from Iran at the height of the Iran-Iraq war. The collection traces the coming-of-age journey of an adolescent toward self-realization and freedom. This exhibit also features the work of four other Iranian artists—Azin Seraj, sisters Behnaz and Baharak Khaleghi (BSisters), and Maryam Tohidi—as well as beautiful ceramics by Zahra Hooshyar and music by Iranian American DJ and artist Ari Boostani (DJ AriB).
Behnaz and Baharak Khaleghi are multidisciplinary artists and collaborators. Behnaz and Baharak originated from Iran and currently live in the Bay Area, California, where Behnaz pursued her MFA at the University of California Berkeley, and Baharak pursued hers at San Jose State University. Working in an array of mediums, they seek alternative ways of making feminist art in a Middle Eastern context, paying attention to the potentials of humor and pleasure while simultaneously embracing the aesthetics of disgust and horror, pushing against taste to develop new categories for beauty; what is pleasurable and erotic for women as defined by women, as well as offensive to male taste and its ownership.
Behnaz’s work has been acclaimed and chosen among Bay Area emerging artists as part of the Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards program and has been exhibited in spaces such as the De Young Museum and the Berkeley Art Museum. Baharak’s work has been exhibited in spaces such as the De Young Museum and Root Division Gallery in San Francisco.
Azin Seraj is an Iranian native and Canadian citizen who currently lives in the United States. Her video, photography, and multimedia installations reflect the varied textures of her transnational experience of displacement and alienation but also explore unexpected connections. She uses sounds and images to create visually and socially lush experiences, layered spaces, and multiple time frames. With an interdisciplinary approach to marginalized experiences, Seraj explores connections between colonial histories, citizen journalism, activist networks, and contemporary politics in South West Asia, South Asia, and North Africa.
Seraj’s work has been featured internationally in exhibitions and festivals, including SFMOMA, Open Space Arts Society in Canada, Tate Liverpool, (S8) Mostra De Cinema Periférico in Spain, Berkeley Art Museum, Minnesota Street Project, Chicago Underground Film Festival, and Croatian Association of Artists. She has been the recipient of the 2019 Kala Media Artist Award.
Rooja Mohassessy is an Iranian-born poet and educator living in Northern California. She is a MacDowell fellow and a graduate of the Pacific University MFA program. Her first poetry collection, When Your Sky Runs Into Mine, won the 22nd Annual Elixir Poetry Prize and will be published by Elixir Press in 2023. Her poems and reviews have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Poet Lore, RHINO Poetry, Southern Humanities Review, CALYX Journal, Ninth Letter, Cream City Review, The Rumpus, the Adroit Journal, Bare Life Review, Potomac Review, the Florida Review, New Letters, International Literary Quarterly, and elsewhere.
Bahman Mohassess (1931–2010) was born in Rasht, Iran, a city by the Caspian Sea. He was a descendant of the Mughal dynasty on the paternal side and the Ghadjars on his maternal side. As a young painter, Mohassess was apprenticed to Seyyed Mohammed Habib Mohammedi. He continued his artistic education in Tehran and Rome. After the toppling of the Pahlavi dynasty, he lived in exile in Rome. His oeuvre comprises paintings, sculptures, and collages. He was also a celebrated translator of literary works. Many of his public works in Iran were destroyed during the Islamic Revolution, with the artist subsequently destroying many of his remaining works in Iran.
Maryam Tohidi is an Iranian-born multimedia artist who has lived and worked in Iran, Canada, and the United States. Mirroring her rich and complex personal journey, her artistic process pulls from, reinterprets, and explores the boundaries of different mediums. Her work is exploratory, personal, and reflective. The use of objects with a previous life gives her work a nostalgic quality, while layering words, memories, poetry, and calligraphy makes them deeply personal. Maryam’s artwork often reflects the complexities and inherent fragility as well as the opportunities for living between different cultures.