The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Create A Bridge Between Two Worlds: Artist In Exile

Shiva Ahmadi Cube (c. 2013) Watercolor, ink, and acrylic on Aquaboard


Imagine yourself in a situation in which you are forced to leave your home to live in a foreign country. A natural disaster has occurred, your government has become a threat to your freedom, or perhaps a civil war has broken out.

Thousands of miles away from your homeland, you are in an unfamiliar environment, may or may not have family in this setting, and have left many loved ones back home.

You are unsure of the amount of time you must spend in this new location, and perhaps may never return home. You are an exile.

“Being an exile, you feel this sense of nostalgia and a longing for your land. You can leave the land, but the land never leaves you,” said the Director and curator of the Dr. M. T. Geoffery Yen Art Gallery, Parvez Mohsin. This is the premise of the “Artist in Exile” exhibition, which is currently on display at St. John’s University’s Sun Yet Sen Hall.

At a distance from their homelands, many exiles reflect on and integrate their backgrounds with modern art studies and their place in the contemporary world.

The artists in this exhibition serve as creative representatives for their people. Their images communicate a shared agenda of bringing mobility, hope, and political-social order to their homelands while using diverse, innovative methods to communicate this theme. The countries these artists represent include Iran, Lebanon, etc.

Shiva Ahmadi, an Iranian native who lives and works in Detroit, MI, often depicts the underlining turmoil of social order in her land. She approaches this theme through the use of monkey-like, hybrid creatures that carry bombs around pressured oil pipes.

In several of her works on view, including, Cube (c. 2013) and Lotus (c. 2013), these creatures also function as a representation of her interests in Hinduism as they resemble the Hindu god Hanuman, who is partially known for being mischievous as a child.

Closer to her own traditions, she expresses the beauty in her culture by utilizing stylistic calligraphy and a variety of mediums in a complementary color scheme. Her work, as described by freshman Shaun Quinn who took a tour of the exhibition, “Is very vibrant.

It comes out at you and represents a culture where everyone is working towards something, yet pretty violent.”

Calligraphy master artist, Pouran Jinchi, who is also an Iranian native, lives and works in New York. Her art serves as the unprecedented midpoint between her culture’s traditional writing style and contemporary abstract aesthetics.

Jinchi uses a wide range of mediums in her work including mixed media, ink and acrylic on paper, and even permanent marker on pixie glass. She has two works on display at the exhibition.

Both of these mixed media pieces follow the same rectangular color scheme and create a blending of colors that may be compared to the way different cultures clash then unite.

Lara Tabet, a Lebanon-born photographer who studied photography in New York for a year, reveals her individualism while recognizing her culture and lifestyle through her work. Furthermore, her photographs show “how the camera is shaping the age of globalization,” said Mohsin.

Tabet describes her “fascination with the idea of surveillance cameras as it relates to collective memory, history, and power” following her experience of being study abroad student.

As you can see in her photographs, “boundaries are blurred,” but with the help of photographs and videos we can shape our reality to blend where we are and where we desire to be.

There is something heartening about the “Artist in Exile” exhibition that moves its viewers to look beyond the surface of what they see and appreciate the pride these artists take in their culture, although at a great distance.

While these artists insist on gaining respect from outsiders as international artists, they also educate their viewers in an innovative way about their cultural background, their social-political views, and personal interests.

Fundamentally, their work “exemplifies that art isn’t always tied to a line on the world; it comes from a person,” said art history professor Amy Gansell.

This show lends both to appreciation and understanding of how artists in exile formulate their unique works from their life experiences and personal beliefs.

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