For me, it is rare to hear Persian outside of family dinners, language classes, and the occasional Uber driver or pedestrian. Every time I do, I feel a subtle connection to the culture and country I plan to explore some day. I certainly did not think I would find an entire gallery filled with strangers excitedly speaking Persian when I walked into The High Line Nine Gallery in Chelsea, New York last week.
The exhibition, A Bridge Between You and Everything, featured the work of 13 contemporary Iranian female artists. It was curated by Shirin Neshat, an acclaimed Iranian photographer and filmmaker. She is perhaps best known for her black and white series, Women of Allah: female portraits overlaid with Persian calligraphy. Neshat’s work has been featured in prominent museums and galleries around the world and she has won numerous awards for her films.
The show, organized by The Center for Human Rights in Iran, aimed to promote artistic freedom and cross-cultural understanding through its arts and culture program. A portion of the exhibition sales will go directly to this cause.
Nearly 100 works, ranging in mediums, were displayed on one, expansive salon wall. Filled with color, Persian motifs, and female figures, themes and subjects ranged from religion and repression to sexual identity and illusion.
All of the artists began their practice following the 1979 revolution, and each work told a different story, some of the past, others of the future. “It’s vital that we use this moment of the public imagination to empower dialogues from women and immigrant artists who have, and likely still continue to experience forms of repression, both in the extreme and every day,” curator Shirin Neshat said.
I had to step closer to individual works and really take my time, (I practically stayed until they turned off the gallery lights). I found the works both socially engaging and politically relevant. In a sense, they depicted the bridge between my American and Iranian female identity. It was an added bonus when I got to speak some Persian in the gallery.