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The Journey to Addressing Suppression and Censorship

Arghavan Khosravi is a New York-based painter who explores themes of suppression, gender dynamics, censorship, and identity in her work. Born in Tehran, Iran, she moved to the US in 2015 to begin her painting career. Arghavan was a 2018 Walter Feldman Fellow of the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston. The Walter Feldman Fellowship supports the professional careers of visual artists through a solo exhibition or alternative presentation of work and provides curatorial and professional development support, including expert guidance on improving business skills for the effective presentation and promotion of their work.

On March 18th, 2021, we sat down with Arghavan to discuss her journey and inspirations.

Arghavan Khosravi decided on her career path at an early age. She majored in graphic design at Tehran Azad University and, after completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts, attended The University of Tehran for an MFA in Illustration. After, Arghavan worked as a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator in Tehran for ten years.

For Arghavan, painting was an art form that she never seriously considered until her now-husband encouraged her to apply to painting programs in the United States. In 2015, Arghavan left her family, friends, and financial stability to attend a one-year studio art program at Brandeis University. For the first time, she was completely immersed in the world of painting. At the time, Arghavan still had plans to return to her graphic design career. But with the encouragement and support from her colleagues and faculty members at Brandeis, she pursued an MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and established herself as an emerging painter.

During her time at RISD, Arghavan became aware of the Arts and Business Council’s Walter Feldman Fellowship that supports the professional development of visual artists. The Feldman Fellowship was the perfect program for Arghavan; as she transitioned from student to professional life, the fellowship helped Arghavan build a website, craft her artist statement, create her resume/CV, converse with galleries, and maintain the artist community that many lose upon graduation. The stipend allowed her to continue to focus on painting and pursuing her passion, and the program as a whole fueled her ambition to continue building her career. She adopted the saying, “if you talk about your dream and it’s not big enough that it’s laughable, it isn’t big enough.” The community she built during her fellowship continues to reach out with opportunities for funding and residencies for the artists. For Arghavan, “the Feldman Fellowship never truly ended.”

After the completion of her Feldman Fellowship, Arghavan completed a seven-month residency in Provincetown. She then moved to New York City to begin a fellowship at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, a public charity dedicated to providing artists across all disciplines with space, tools, and a cooperative forum for the development of individual practice.

However, six months into her fellowship, the COVID-19 Pandemic struck, and Arghavan lost access to her Manhattan art studio. She decided to move her art studio to her living room and has been working out of her residence since. The pandemic led to isolation and loss of community, as social media remains the only way for Arghavan to stay connected with other artists. However, with exhibitions set for New York City, London, Berlin, and New Hampshire in the upcoming year, Arghavan continues to create and explore new work through this difficult time.

Arghavan Khosravi’s Work

Arghavan’s work addresses issues of gender, freedom of expression, power dynamics, oppression, identity, self-censorship, and politics. She utilizes a red thread throughout her work to signify restriction. Due to Trump’s Travel Ban in 2017 and the COVID-19 Pandemic, Arghavan has not been able to travel back to Iran for four years. She shares that this “geographical and social distance allows me to reflect back on my experiences and memories in Iran. A lot of my reactions are angry and sad on the social issues, and the best way for me to express these emotions is through my paintings.”

Arghavan Khosravi. Compulsory Halo. 2019. Acrylic on found woodblock printed fabric (which is a praying mat) and cotton canvas mounted on wood panel, 47.7 x 45 x 2 in (121.2 x 114.3 x 5.1 cm).

Arghavan wants her work to be accessible—the audience is allowed to make their own connections and conclusions. She is not interested in being associated with exoticism, propaganda art, or the poster “Iranian woman.” When Arghavan is painting, she is painting for her own expression.

Arghavan continues to tackle challenges and new problems within her work. One of her most recent projects includes textile paintings, where Arghavan uses fabric as her canvas and paints directly on the textile. She varies her ideas and themes to keep both herself and the audience interested. She believes that “when you aren’t challenging yourself, that is when you start to get stuck and you don’t move forward as an artist”.

Arghavan Khosravi. The Anatomy of A Woman Series #3. 2020. Acrylic on cotton canvas and found textile mounted on two shaped wood panels, thread, wood cutout, 51 x 29 in (130 x 76 cm).
Arghavan Khosravi. Mesmerized, Listen to the Big Brother. 2019. Acrylic, cement, and colored pencil on found woodblock printed fabric and cotton canvas mounted on wood panel, 53 x 38 in (134.6 x 96.5 cm).

Arghavan’s future aspirations are ambitious. She hopes to show in respected galleries and museums, receive commissions, and ultimately “stay realistic and humble.”

Arghavan’s current exhibition, “In Between Places”, is currently on display through June 5th, 2021 at the Rachel Uffner Gallery in New York City. Upcoming, she is showing at the Carl Kostyál Gallery in London beginning in June, and the Koenig Gallery in Berlin, and the Currier Museum of Art in New Hampshire next year.

To find out more about Arghavan and her work, please visit https://www.arghavankhosravi.com/

To find out more about the Walter Feldman Fellowship, please visit https://artsandbusinesscouncil.org/the-walter-feldman-fellowship/

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