Contemporary Iranian Photography and Video Installations to be Displayed at University of Southern Maine Art Galleries
GORHAM, Maine – The University of Southern Maine (USM) Art Gallery will present “Persian Visions: Contemporary Photography from Iran,” a photography and video installation exhibition which gathers personal perspectives of contemporary Iran, filtered through individual sensibilities while simultaneously addressing public concerns.
The exhibition’s 58 works of photography will be divided and displayed at both the USM Art Gallery, Gorham campus, along with two video installations, and the AREA Gallery, Woodbury Campus Center, Portland campus.
The details of the exhibition are:
- “Persian Visions: Contemporary Photography from Iran,” Noon–4 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday, Sept. 17-Dec. 8, Art Gallery, Gorham Campus, and 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Monday–Friday, Sept. 17-Dec. 8, AREA Gallery, located in the Woodbury Campus Center, Portland Campus. Admission to each gallery is free. For more information, go to: http://www.usm.maine.edu/gallery or call (207) 780-5008.
“The pure visual appeal of many of the works is shadowed by the signs in ‘Persian Visions’ of how challenging it can be to make images in Iran today,” said Robert Silberman, USM Art Department visiting scholar and associate professor of Art History at the University of Minnesota, in the exhibition’s catalog essay.
“In Islamic societies the act of making representations can be controversial, even dangerous,” Silberman continued in his essay. “In contemporary Iran there is relative freedom of artistic expression. Nevertheless, one way that the common culture does appear in ‘Persian Visions’ is in the preoccupation with representation, and the issue of what can and cannot be shown.”
A recurring motif in the exhibition is the use of veils to obscure faces and objects. In a self-portrait by Shokoufeh Alidousti, the artist’s body and face are almost completely veiled. The black form of her chador overwhelms her image, but a corner of her lips is shown, slightly upturned and hinting at a smile. Alidousti is clearly wearing lipstick, which offers an exploration of female identity and a statement of modernity.
The USM Art Gallery’s presentation of “Persian Visions” coincides with recent political events in the Middle East that have garnered prominent media coverage in the U.S. The exhibition’s materials originated from Iran, and current U.S. sanctions stipulate that the exhibition not return to the country that its 20 photographers call home.
With the backdrop of increasing attention given to the art and culture of Iran and the current political crisis in that part of the world, an exhibition with this focus is most timely.
"This beautifully haunting exhibition brings us face-to-face with informative expressions of a misunderstood culture through the intimate experience of art,” said Carolyn Eyler, director of Exhibitions and Programs at USM.
In expressing their many different visions of their world, the “Persian Visions” artists offer a look at both private and public realms.
“Modern Iran, the heir to the 2,500 year-old Persian civilization, is home to a vibrant artistic community, which despite state censorship and decades-old sanctions, continues to create and express art that demands our attention," said Reza Jalali, American-Iranian scholar and writer, and coordinator of the USM Office of Multicultural Student Affairs
The USM Art Gallery will hold an opening reception for “Persian Visions, ” 5 p.m.-7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Art Gallery, USM Gorham campus. At 5 p.m. Silberman will present a gallery talk followed by a reception with Middle Eastern cuisine. The opening reception is free and open to the public.
In partnership with the USM Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the Art Gallery will present “Iran 101: Teach-In Panel Discussion,” 12 p.m.–1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the AREA Gallery, Woodbury Campus Center, USM Portland campus. The panel discussion will be moderated by Reza Jalali.
“Persian Visions” was developed by Hamid Severi for the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran, and Gary Hallman of the Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.
This exhibition was made possible in part by the ILEX Foundation, University of Minnesota McKnight Arts and Humanities Endowment, and the Department of Art, Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota.
The exhibition is sponsored by the USM Gorham Cultural Affairs Committee.