EM: I would describe my work as a collection of menacing landscapes. Through exaggerating trees, animals, and violent scenes I connect these things to time in colorful landscapes. I feel my work is tied as closely to German abstract expressionism as it is to Persian miniature painting. I am trying to create an aesthetic that refers to both my family history, the small rural town I grew up in, and my influences through a visual rhetoric embedded in the images.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
EM: My inspiration comes from poetry, music, and observing local landscapes. Train and car rides allow me to observe a variety of landscapes, factories, refineries, and people that create Western America. I look to other artists, whether it be in art books or on Instagram, to find new ways of creating forms or combining colors. Though my music tastes change, I enjoy the power of rap, hip-hop, and R&B while also hearkening to Persian musicians such as Dariush, Googoosh, and Hayedeh.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
EM: My practice consists of seasons. I find myself taking a few months of time for drawing, reading, collecting images, and finally painting. In order for me to start a body of work, it takes these “seasons” of culminating knowledge, looking, and sketching for paintings to be birthed.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
EM: I prefer that my audience create its own connection to the work, especially as I invite them as voyeurs in the paintings. I get excited when I talk to viewers who can refer to family anecdotes and sayings, which enhances meanings and layers within the works.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
EM: As an artist, I prioritize my practice. My work, home, and school schedule revolve around my studio practice. This could include just reading, making, research, or even taking a drive for source imagery. I often have half of my practice happen at home, while the other half happens in the studio. At times, it is a never ending hustle, but I enjoy doing it and would not trade it for any other lifestyle.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
EM: I cannot say one is better than the other. In my practice I like to keep a sense of immediacy and a freedom, while maintaining a healthy amount of planning and thinking along the way. I work where the piece takes me, always engaging in a dialogue on how it can improve.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
EM: Practice, practice, practice. I used to think talent was of the utmost importance in being an artist, until I had to come to the realization that practice over time is the only thing that makes so called “talent”. I frequently have to remind myself of this lesson, as I get impatient with my abilities. I think it is easy to scroll through the internet and find artists who are making exceptional work and think “Why can’t I make work like that?” But remembering exceptional work takes time and practice makes me both hopeful and allows me to improve at a pace my work needs.
EM: I think taste influences a way of looking at an environment or way or life, making it important in any creative field. In my experience, artists culminate taste based on their life history, experiences, influences, and mentors, ultimately making taste a result of so many other important factors.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
EM: Aside from the difficult financial aspects of being an artist, being able to critically view my own work is a feat. I will be painting for hours on end, without truly being able to see what the painting needs. It is hard to even comprehend the work I have made until months after it is finished.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
EM: As an artist, I love being able to visualize a sentiment I feel towards a place, issue, or person. I get great satisfaction when my viewers can make personal associations to my work. It gives me a sense of purpose knowing that I can give someone the tools to find an understanding of an experience.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
EM: In Venice in 2017, I saw a Philip Guston show at the Academia Museum, which was a turning point for me. I had known his work before, but I had never had the chance to really experience it. Guston’s wit and crude figures really speak to me, and often bring me to tears. If you have not seen any videos of him painting, I recommend that you do. He is so smooth with a brush in a way that I aspire to.
EM: Technology, at this point in time, is a part of all of our lives. There is a spectrum in which artists engage with technology, whether it be through software, apps, machines, or the internet. Technology is an inevitable part of our lives and artists find ways to manipulate and use these programs in new ways.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
EM: Particularly as a painter, I do feel that I am taking in my environment differently than say a historian or a scientist. Perspectives will change between creatives based on their practices and what individuals find important, but I think artists are formulating a world view that is meant to be displayed. Inevitably these formulations will be different from someone researching a specific topic and presenting factual information.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
EM: As someone who was born abroad while my father was directing a university study abroad program, I was fated to love travel. It is hard for me to pick one city I love, because there are so many. I prefer places where I have loving friends and familial roots. My favorites include, New York, Prague, Frankfurt, and Chengdu. Before I die I would like to go to Isfahan in Iran.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
EM: It is hard for me to pick favorites, but I recently purchased a reader by Lebanese American writer and artist Etel Adnan which includes many of her poems, essays, and short stories that I keep finding endless inspiration from.
EM: Right now I am planning to go to graduate school. I want my work to become more nuanced in its associations and its delivery. My ultimate goal for my work is to make work that is relevant, and accessible to a variety of audiences. I would hope that my work asks questions which help viewers to recognize their role as voyeurs or participants in industrial violence on pristine landscapes.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
EM: Artists to whom I am drawn are creating a vision of the world that speaks of an experience. The construction of a new way of looking is what an artist tries to accomplish in the creation of culture. To me it means visualizing a way of life that considers a larger idea.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
EM: Louis Armstrong, What A Wonderful World
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
EM: In my work I explore how long periods of formation build into short violent moments. I consider how materials and subjects which have formed over vast expanses of time are uprooted and manipulated through the vehicle of sudden change and everyday violence. For example, I explore the implications of layers of rock being stripped away from mountains, how oil refineries burn materials that were formulated over millions of years, and how animals’ long histories of evolutionary development are altered by five cent bullets. This destruction by humans through time reflects an unsettling violence which permanently alters its victims. In my paintings I connect and dismantle these moments through isolated images, presentation of plains within planes, and abstracted organic material, and emphasize the participation of all agents in the image. This process emulates the building and interruption of memory as well as the displacement of time through impactful moments.