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Persian Visions

Memories of a Bloody Revolution

Jan. 12, 2010
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A noteworthy exhibit at Marquette University’s Haggerty Art Museum is closing soon, on Jan. 17. “Persian Visions,” on two floors of the Haggerty, features a remarkable artist, MIAD instructor Fahimeh Vahdat. Her personal saga includes surviving the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Tehran, when she witnessed her sister’s hanging and the brutal shooting of her second cousin.

The Revolution of 1979 saw two different cultures clash violently. Overnight women’s lives changed. Homes were taken away, Iranians lived in fear of executions and women lost all power. The atrocities of Ayatollah Khamenei made martyrs of many men and women.

Vahdat fled her homeland and journeyed to Barcelona, London, Texas and, finally, Milwaukee. She finds inspiration for her paintings and prints in the religion of Zoroaster-Baha’i. This belief is one of a healing cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Her abstract painting, A PersianGarden, presents a pregnant woman in a fertile field of pomegranate and fig trees as seen through eyes of children. Pomegranates symbolize knowledge from the tree of life, and figs signify the abundance of food and well being. To portray the violence of the Revolution, a large mural was inspired by Picasso’s Guernica.

Her most recent series of prints, “What WillBefall Her?”and “Objects of Violence”show the sufferings of women and children in Tehran. Her prints are stripped down of all color, shading, and oil mediums to witness the stark realities of rape, murder, child trafficking and fear.

These compassionate drawings are done with charcoal pencils on blank paper. One poignant sketch shows a pregnant woman’s embryo stressed by Tehran’s social upheaval. Others show a rape victim ostracized by the community and boys and girls violated by slave dealers.

Passionately and sometimes tearfully, she reveals these heroes. Her response to her experiences has always been non-violent.She continues to teach at MIAD and to bear witness to Tehran’s chaos in her role as an artist and a war-tested warrior.


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