Iranian artist Ziba Rajabi stitches her native tongue

During somber moments away from home, some may find comfort in poetry to soothe a homesick heart. 

Iranian artist Ziba Rajabi brought poetry from her homeland to life through fiber-based paintings in the exhibition, “Recite a Poem When Feeling Hopeless,” displayed in Minnesota State’s Conkling Gallery through March 21. 

“Throughout years of living outside of my homeland, Iran, Persian language and poetry has been my sentimental shelter,” Rajabi said. 

Persian or Iranian art has one of the richest heritages in world history through numerous types of media such as painting, calligraphy, architecture, weaving, pottery, metalworking and sculpture according to Iran Safar Tours. 

To translate her native language to art, Rajabi used Persian calligraphy as a source of imagery, and Iranian book art to inspire the compositional structure for her paintings. 

Rajabi’s work reconciles her relationship with Iran and the United States — the place she came from and where she is today. 

“This series of work investigates matters of relocation and distance through use of language and specifically, poetry,” Rajabi said. 

Rajabi executed domestic art practices and material for alternative texture; she stitched brightly colored fabric on unprimed muslin rather than ink on paper to showcase her female ancestors’ art-making techniques. 

While memories slowly fade while living in a country far from home, Rajabi is able to find familiarity through her art inspired by abstract pieces of her past, and hopes viewers can form rapport by uniting different cultures with art. 

“Art can help us to make sense of the world and its events in an unorthodox way and provides an opportunity to look at things differently,” Rajabi said. 

Rajabi sees art in her everyday life with her current studio practice, focusing primarily on painting, drawing and textile-based installation. 

Prior to her work in the studio, Rajabi received her bachelors of fine arts in her home country of Iran at Sooreh University in Tehran, and her masters in studio art from the School of Art in the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She also attended an art high school, graduating with a graphic design degree. 

“It has been more than 20 years that I am learning, working and teaching in the field of art and design,” Rajabi said. 

Paired with her many years of experience, Rajabi’s work has been displayed internationally in museums, galleries and institutions of higher education. She was also the recipient of the Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Early Career Artists, the Artist 360 Grant, a program sponsored by the Mid-America Arts Alliance, and many other awards. 

“It is always a pleasure and privilege to be able to share my work and story with audiences,” Rajabi said.

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: Iranian artist Ziba Rajabi created stitched designs in the exhibit, “Recite a Poem When Feeling Hopeless,” in Conkling Gallery at Minnesota State. The fiber-based paintings are available to view inside the exhibition until March 21. (Alexis Darkow/The Reporter)

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