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From Yari Ostovany's "Rebuilding Goya" series

Artists unite!
Yari Ostovany has brought artists together on the web

By Maryam Ovissi
November 24, 1999
The Iranian

I first became familiar with Yari Ostovany through his famous web site, Museum of Iranian Contemporary Artists, which has brought together hundreds of Iranian artists together. He is an exceptional artist who dives beneath the surface of a painting to its core. Yet, Yari is able to transit from his intimate and personal space into an open and giving individual who has dedicated a portion of his life to creating an arena for all Iranian artists to come together and share their work with the world.

At the age of 15, Yari knew he was an artist. His interest in the creative world began with a passion for literature and contemporary poetry. Later it spread into the visual arts through the encouragement of a friend in Iran. A turning point came in 1986 when Yari submitted three works for the first time to a juried competition. He was eager to have at least one of the works shown. When he arrived at the opening for the exhibition, he found all three works exhibited with two of them receiving awards, a first place and a honorable mention. This acknowledgment greatly inspired and encouraged him to keep creating.

Yari received his bachelor of fine arts from the University of Nevada in Reno and his masters, also in fine arts, from the San Francisco Art Institute. He developed his graphic and web designing skills on his own. He was inspired by one of his roommates in college who first introduced the electronic media to him. Later, Yari traded some of his paintings for a used computer and began his journey into cyberart.

Museum of Iranian Contemporary Artists is truly a labor of love. He has never received any funding or financial support for the development and continuing maintenance of the site. He developed it because, as an artist, he found it very difficult to access works by other Iranian artists. He began the concept on a small scale, limited only to painters, and later expanded it to include all forms of media. Yari accepts the work of all professional artists and encourages them to submit their work to the site.

"The work may not all be 'Iranian', but if the work comes from an Iranian artist, then it is Iranian work", he says.

A few months ago Yari visited Iran for the first time in 21 years. He planned his trip three weeks after hearing that Iranian men abroad who had not served in the military could visit Iran. Yari spent a great deal of time meeting Iranian artists, visiting studios, galleries and museums. He was greatly encouraged by what he saw: A lively and vibrant art scene, despite all the restrictions and pressures.

He noticed that there is no one major style or movement in the Iranian art scene. He also mentioned that the artist community in Tehran is very close and that most of artists made a living through the sales of their art or teaching.

Yari's own work is filled with spirituality, emotion and intuition. The most important and precious aspect of his art is the process of creation. Yari creates out of necessity - a need to be engaged in a process of creativity. "Just as children need to be separated from the umbilical cord after birth in order to survive on their own, so does a work of art; it needs to be separated from its creator."

Yari works primarily in series format. One of his recent series is based the poet Attar's "Conference of the Birds". He created this series (more than 30 works) as an emotive response to Attar's story. Two other series in progress are, "The Education of Icarus" and "Rebuilding Goya", a homage to the Spanish artist.

Yari is drawn to mythological stories. He says he relates to many of them, such as Icarus. In relation to Icarus, he comments that "Once your eyes are opened, you begin to see the pain of knowledge. There is a price you pay for knowledge and for seeing the truth; it is much easier to be ignorant."

Yari believes it is imperative to have discipline and intuition as an artist. "It is important to undergo a classical training and just as important to let go of the classical training," he says. One needs to be sensitive and aware of oneself, the world and the relationships that occur in between.

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