On Tuesday, February 21, 2023, at 11.30am Joseph Gallivan interviews artist and Portland State University art professor Taravat Talepasand (PRONOUNCED TA-ra-vat TOL-a-pas-AND) about her career review show called TARAVAT, and the controversy it caused when some Muslim students in Minnesota tried to get it shut down. The show, which is on through March 12 at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, gives a two-decade review of Talepasand’s work, and includes painting, sculpture, neon work and found objects. She talks about her take on censorship in Iran and in US colleges, how to make teachable moments for students and the public, the primacy of representation, and whether adding LSD to the Iranian bank note adds value.
This interview was recorded in person without masks on Feb. 16, 2023, using a Zoom HN2 recorder and engineered by KBOO volunteer Ray Bodwell. https://kboo.fm/blog/55224
FROM THE PRESS:
Interview with pictures in the Portland Tribune
January 27—March 10, 2023
Opening: January 27th, 6-8 pm
Gallery conversation with Taravat and Professor Ahoo Najafian, 7 pm
The Law Warschaw Gallery is pleased to present TARAVAT,
a survey of Taravat Talepasand’s signature work from the last fifteen years.
Made in Iran and born in America during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Talepasand explores how women navigate the geographic and physiological boundaries between East and West, revealing women’s bodies and perspectives becoming surfaces imprinted with the uncertainties of political and social upheavals. This exhibition is a record of one Iranian-American woman’s attempts to grapple with her difficult legacy, to transform it visually, to make something both beautiful and uncomfortable of this condition.
Talepasand’s dedicated work ethic draws on the visual conventions of Pop art, propaganda, and appropriations, which is characterized by labor-intensive and often repetitive processes of painting, drawing, and sculpture to bring a focus on an acceptable beauty and its relationship with art history. The human figure often found in her work is a treacherous place between narrative and introspection. By mixing these disparate strands, Talepasand creates a cognitive short circuit, asking us to reconsider what we think we know.
By staging encounters between the aesthetic conventions, techniques, and traditions of European and Persian miniature art, the work challenges viewers to uncover (and thus confront) the tricks and abstractions that coalesce into effective forms of image making and propaganda and reorder the various disciplinary processes that continue to shape our understanding of “Eastern” and “Western” subjecthood and aesthetics. The result is a sophisticated detournement of the assumptions associated with Iranian culture and the ways in which political propaganda often lives between the ancient demand for timelessness and the modern demand for immediacy. The work asks the viewer to reconsider the various ideological assumptions that index Iranian identity, state power, and gender in order to consider how the body and the image come to signify and rebel against normative notions of Iranian subjectivity.
“Growing up Iranian within America had been arduous and awkward. As a whole, we, as Iranians, had little consciousness of assimilation because of a constant denial of our permanence in America. In Iran, I found myself to be transgressive, yet within American culture being Iranian is transgressive in that American individualism and Iranian deference to tradition were irreconcilable. Traveling down one of those paths meant turning your back on the other even if the defiance was temporal; this was the hidden catch of the formation of my identity. The contradictions caused my head to constantly bounce around the question of inherent identity– that which is exterior and self-defined versus inward and pre-determined.”
Taravat Talepasand is an artist, activist, and educator whose labor-intensive interdisciplinary painting practice questions normative cultural behaviors within contemporary power imbalances. As an Iranian-American woman, Talepasand explores the cultural taboos that reflect on gender and political authority. Her approach to representation and figuration reflects the cross-pollination, or lack thereof, in our Western Society.
“To create art, it is imperative for me to be vulnerable—extracting the personal truths driven by my Diaspora, history, nostalgia, self-awareness, and rebellion. Much of my work revolves around the struggles of womanhood and navigating personal identity as a hyphenated individual. However, I believe that art must possess an element of vulnerability in order to provoke change—socially, intellectually, and morally. In a world where ideas of culture, political and intellectual activities are evolving, what will this change mean for generations to come?”
THE BIG WINTER ASK
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Joseph Gallivan has been a reporter since 1990. He has covered music for the London Independent, Technology for the New York Post, and arts and culture for the Portland Tribune, where he is currently a Feature Writer. He is the author of two novels, "Oi, Ref!" and "England All Over" which are available on Amazon.com