The art of Amir Fallah
June 6, 2001
Last January jurors Seyed Alavi, Zara Houshmand, Fariba Bogzaran and
Ben Kashkooli came together to select a recipient for the 2001 Iranian Artist
Scholarship Award ($1000). Young Iranian artists from all over the U.S.
sent in strong submissions. The jurors had a challenging, yet enjoyable
time together, discussing the submissions. They took into consideration
the quality, the artist statement and the artist's relationship with his/her
media and work.
They selected, Amir Fallah, a 21-year-old artist currently
enrolled at Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore. Fallah's works
blend and juxtapose his Iranian culture/heritage with his American, merging
together inspiration from Iranian calligraphy, graffiti and abstract expressionism.
Click on image
Amir's first significant experience in the arts began at junior high
school. "The first time I really took art seriously was in 8th grade,
when I started taking art classes at my junior high. There was a competition
for a small mural at the school," He said. He won and was encouraged
to continue pursuing his passion. He was able to continue taking art classes
both at school and in the summer through his high school.
Outside of the classroom, he also experimented and taught
himself how to paint using acrylics and oils. His family was very supportive
of his interest in art. Although his mother wished that he would become
a doctor (the Iranian Dream!), once they saw his interest and sincere commitment
to art, they were very supportive and encouraging. Click
Some of the most formative and important periods in artists' lives are
the first few years when they are encouraged to pursue their interest and
talent in art; and also, are provided with opportunities for growth. What
would have happened if Amir's junior high school and high school did not
have an art program? And what if his parents underestimated the importance
of art in his life?
During my interview with Amir, I sensed the stabilizing
force that his early education and family support played in his life. Although,
he, perhaps, is not aware of how important the encouragement was, it has
absolutely grounded him and provided him a sense of security in his individual
being. Click on image
During his second year in college, he began to explore his Iranian identity
in his work for the first time. He has been working in the current style
for about two years. Upon first glance, his paintings resemble graffiti
one may find on city walls. When one tries to read the text on his paintings,
one realizes that he is writing in a foreign language, a true language or
his own? He uses the English alphabet to write Persian words, creating a
language that he can relate to and understand.
Like many Iranian children who have grown up in the United
States, Amir does not write or read Persian, but speaks it. He still wants
to relate to his mother tongue and through the development of his own language
he is able to do so. Click on image
His statements are light hearted but poignant in their innocence of exploring
"Iranianess". Some pieces depict short statements while others
have stories intertwined. The following excerpt is taken from his statement:
Modern graffiti and Islamic calligraphy have many similarities. Both
forms of art deal primarily with the manipulation and stylization of text.
They both are intricate and do not rely on scenery or realistic renderings
of figures. Islamic calligraphy deals with the use of repetition in patterns
while graffiti artists use the repetition of their nickname or "tag"
for recognition by other artists.
In both forms, the oral tradition of teaching the art is also practiced.
A master calligrapher hands down his knowledge of calligraphy to an apprentice
and a skilled graffiti artist, hands down his knowledge in letterform,
style and technique to young inexperienced writers also known as "toys".
Both forms of art rely on the use of architecture as a compositional factor.
These and other similarities between these two styles.
Amir Fallah has not had the opportunity to show his work
to a lot of Iranians, but the mostly American audiences are intrigued as
they try to understand what is going on in the text, images and composition.
Usually after Amir's brief explanation, one sees the push-and-pull energy
between the "American" and "Iranian" elements of his
work. Click on image
Currently, Amir is enrolled in a unique independent study program at
his college. Basically, for an entire semester a student receives the opportunity
to have a studio in Tribeca, New York, living and working the artist's dream.
Art critics and visitors from the New York art scene come to Amir's studio
to critique and discuss his works with him (kudos to his school for providing
such an enriching experience).
He explained that he is working on several pieces, some
small, some large, some two dimensional and some three dimensional. Most
impressive of all is a 30-foot mural he described in his studio that is
about the clash between his Iranian and American identities and culture.
Click on image
For many, perhaps the theme of cultural identity is blasé and
has been overworked, but the creative process is one of the most poetic
forms of exploration. When we are given the opportunity to share a young
person's perspective about the difficulty of balancing two very different
cultures, it allows us as human beings, friends and parents to be more understanding.
Amir was very pleased to receive the Iranian Artist Scholarship
Award. The Iranian community, at least in his area (Northern Virginia/Washington
DC), is not very encouraging toward young and emerging Iranians, especially
artists, he said. "I was very surprised to hear of this scholarship
for young Iranians. It actually sounded kind of weird. But this is great
and definitely needed!" Click on image
The Iranian Artist Scholarship was developed by an anonymous Iranian
artist who wanted to plant a seed of inspiration for young and emerging
Iranian artists in the United States. Gallery Ovissi and Evolving Perceptions
have adopted this scholarship and plan to offer it every year, hopefully
raising more and more money to give several scholarships out a year in various
The scholarship was also fortunate to have a group of supporters donate
to this fund. Special Thanks to Dr. Ehsan Yarshater, Simin Meykadeh, Bella
and Nersi Ramazan-Nia, Seyed Alavi, Afarin Rahmanifar, Susan Akbarpour,
Marvin Collins -- all of whom generously donated to this scholarship. A
special acknowledgment to Nina Sharif who committed time and talent to creating
the poster announcement for the scholarship and served as the award's graphic
If you would like to receive information or make a contribution to the
2002 Iranian Artist Scholarship please contact Maryam Ovissi at 510-601-5284
or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Check www.GalleryOvissi.com
for application information as well.
Iranian.com will feature Amir Fallah's work
in more detail... soon!