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Artist explains her paintings at The Benton

By Zarrin Ahmed
On February 12, 2014

Artist Afarin (meaning "to praise" in Farsi) Rahmanifar provided insight behind the creation of several of her pieces that are displayed at the Benton Museum's, during an art talk on Tuesday afternoon. The pieces contribute to the exhibit "Persepolis: Word and Image," a show centered on the graphic novel and coming-of-age memoir that it lends its name to.
Just past noon, participants in the art talk trickled into the second gallery on the top floor of the Benton. They wandered, examining all the pieces of the exhibit before gathering for the talk. Rahmanifar's work was presented on one side of a wall that stands independently in the middle of the square gallery. Everyone in the room sat in front of the eight pieces the artist created, a combination of two sequences. The two series are titled "Recess of a Journey" with parts one and two. They include depictions of women, curtains, calligraphy and words in each mixed media painting.
Rahmanifar began by introducing herself and telling the audience a little about her background, which plays crucial roles in her work. Born in Iran and graduate of the Masters of Fine Arts program at UConn, Rahmanifar specializes in painting and mixed media as well as illustrating Persian miniature, taking her work all over the world and gaining international recognition. Carla Galfano, curator of the exhibit, said Rahmanifar attended an open house and was interested in displaying her work for the exhibit.
"Persepolis: Word and Image" opened in January along with "Making the Movement Move: Photography, Student Activism, and Civil Rights." The graphic novel is an autobiographical story by Marjane Satrapi. It focuses on Satrapi's coming-of-age story in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. Like Satrapi, Rahmanifar was born in Iran and shared a similar biographical background as the author, providing a connection between the artist, her work and the theme of the exhibit.
Rahmanifar explores the differences between East and West culture, especially the portrayal of women, but chooses to embraces the similarities and differences rather than criticize them. Having gone through the dilemma of identity and finding a sense of belonging, Rahmanifar puts a lot of her own experiences and soul into her work. All the pieces hold significant meaning from all parts of her life - from old texts she saw as a child, to paintings that she found beautiful and incorporated into her work. She visualizes the relevance of physical and emotional life by representing the body as a vessel and the mind creates for experiences. The two series on displayed concentrated greatly on anxiety caused by separation.
What Rahmanifar finds powerful about her work is the fact that she can speak out and connect with her audience without having to be vocal. People who view her work take away their own meanings while retaining the emotion put into and emanating from the works. Rahmanifar explained about the motivations and movements behind her work, but loved to hear others' interpretations. She asked the crowd for their opinions and bounced ideas off the experiences that individuals shared, including information about traditional women and culture before periods of Westernization.
Rahmanifar will return to the Benton during the next Salon, which will take place on Feb. 28 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Titled "Herstory and Memory," it will feature panelists Kathleen Holgerson and Rahmanifar, and the discussion will be led by Professor Cathy Schlund-Vials.

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