Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Art Space Talk: Makan Emadi

I recently interviewed artist Makan Emadi. Mr. Emadi emigrated with his family from Iran in 1979 at the age of fourteen. Since those early years his work has expanded. Makan embraces the political and cultural questions of our time with his art.

Makan's art has caught the eye of art observers. In his series, 'Islamic Erotica', he portrays Muslim women in a style that references American pin-up art and modern advertising. The contradictory nature of this series creates an outlandish vision of how the Middle East is being changed by the ever-expanding arm of globalization and the growing influence of American-style democracy.

Mr. Emadi has participated in a number of group shows and has been featured in four solo exhibitions in the Los Angeles area.

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "I believe that we are all just composites of social influence. I do not believe in originality or uniqueness, or a "pure me’ down deep. I am not so arrogant as to think that there is any part of my identity & or my opinions that are not taken from another. All people & therefore all my influences are social agents. My art is always an attempt to use social signs to express my reaction to society. I hope some of the time I do this in an interesting way."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "When I first started painting about ten years ago, I fell in love with the Abstract Expressionists. Seeing their process let me feel free enough to experiment & play with painting which for me was just what I needed at the time. Those first pieces would take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days to complete.

My process has become more meticulous and time consuming in the last few years as I have returned to realism. A painting these days can take me weeks."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "My main ritual is to work everyday. It all started a few years ago when as a late bloomer I was constantly afraid of "drying up". The urge to paint had come over me so suddenly that I was worried it would leave me the same way. I am also a creature of habit so I decided I had to make the work a part of my daily routine. I don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration. Some days I only work for an hour or so but I still do something. Oh yea & the iPod is always on!"

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "Great investors with keen tastes!"

Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "Ms. September (image above) was the first of the Islamic Erotica series: Representation of the female body in art is forbidden in strict Islamic tradition, and is therefore taboo in today’s Muslim cultures. To imagine Western art without the nude is, in contrast, impossible. These paintings revisit Western tradition of "pinup" art and its loving contribution to the objectification of women through overexposure and unnatural posing of the female model. The sexism of the East is more direct, and is most apparent in its mandated repressive female clothing. By combining these seemingly contradictory traditions, I saw a humorous but nightmarish vision of a possible future in the Middle East as globalization and American democracy continue to dominate."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "After being rejected at eighteen years old when I applied to study fine art (they didn’t like my grade point average), I took a different direction with my higher education. I received training and worked as a Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor and found my second passion in the helping field.

I pursued my education by completing a bachelor's degree in social work at Cal Poly Pomona and a master's degree in the same field from Cal State Long Beach. After becoming secure in my career as a psychotherapist and beginning my current job for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, as well as joining the adjunct faculty at Mount San Antonio College. I have had some private instruction in art but don’t plan to pursue a degree in this field. I know many doors will not be open to me in the "art world" due to this decision but given my current responsibilities, I will have to see how far "home schooling" will take me!"

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "My next solo show, "Terrorists & Freedom Fighters", is scheduled for May 2007. It will be at the dA Gallery in Pomona California.

On the web you can find me at:"

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "I believe there are many "Art Words". Most of us won’t have the chance to be featured in "Art In America" (but will keep trying). Technology has enabled us to find an audience however, in addition to our local communities.

Thanks to Postmodernism & pluralism, almost anything goes in some part of the world artistically now & as far as trends and "Schools" are concerned a predominant doesn’t seem to dominate like it used to as in the Modern period. Artists outside of the exclusive "Art world" which are over ninety percent or more of the whole can still thrive. I for one however, would not deny New York a solo show if they asked nicely!"

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "The frontal nudity in "The Emperors New Cloths" was censored when I exhibited at a local "community" art center. I expected them to put this limitation on me when I asked to exhibit in a group show. I knew they receive public funding which comes with all sorts of puritanical strings in the U.S. I used their censorship well though I think in temporarily altering the painting by putting a cardboard cutout on the genitals on it typed in bold letters, "CENSORED". I felt that it added another dimension to the work."

Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "For long time I was a watcher, now I spend most of my time doing."

Q. Has politics ever entered your art?

A. "My Art has become more political through the years. Part of the reason is perhaps that being political is a sign of our times again. I think the average American has become more political in the past few years under Bush & since 9/11.

Even as dense and self-centered as we are, war & international disapproval interrupts our sleep a little bit!

Also being from Iran & immigrating with my family to the United States in 1979, during another time when the political climate was very charged has probably affected me permanently."

Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "A lot of my work is a reaction to religion. My series Islamic Erotica explores sexuality and repression in Islamic countries faced with globalization. My series Terrorists & Freedom Fighters started around the time of the U.S. war with Iraq & tires to get at some of its religious subtexts.

Seeing what has happened in Iran under a Theocracy really saddens me. After the Shah was ousted, so many of us had hopes of a better future without the weight of imperialism over the country but then came the Islamic Republic.

Liberal thinkers in America & the west can’t forget what travesties are being committed there under the guise of Allah by Ahmadinejad’s government. He may sound a lot more intelligent than G.W. Bush but he is only more evil in that he has more power over his people."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Makan Emadi. Feel free to critique or discuss his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin


Lilla Smutzig said...

I'm impressed by this series. Theoretical content such as this had a large potential for disastrous failure, and yet is it both successful and insightful. Thank you for introducing me to this work.

Anonymous said...

i love these imagery. it is very, very erotic

Anonymous said...

Different and Kind of Sexy, I like them, Great job!

Anonymous said...

what do you think your doing this is not art? how can you use women with niqab on and create a complete different personality for them.this is haram may allah punish you in hell

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the artist. Muslims will discover huge potential of erotica created by covering women with higab.
From now on, I will think what is hidden under higab everytime I see a muslim woman.

Anonymous said...

I am not offened at all, but rather yawned my way through the photos. Have you ever eaten liver with peanut butter and pickles? You know what I mean? They just don't work together. You are young my son, keep exploring your art and you'll get it right yet.

Anonymous said...

It looks like Anonymous (1) is going to nominate the artist for a fatwa.

Anonymous said...

Great artistic work, maybe a bit "deep" for some, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Anonymous said...

This is not forbidden art, it is BAD art

Anonymous said...

the art work that was created that implying that there is more to muslim women then meets the eye may imply to some...
but not all muslim women are like that.. so you have to be carful who judge because it may go too far!!!
not everyone is the same!!
but the work was good it targeted some people but not all.

Anonymous said...

not nice at all