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A Conversation on Race and Identity


February 22 – March 16, 2018

Artists’ works explore topics from their personal cultural heritage, and how socially constructed “realities” have shaped and often misinformed our perspective of various ethnic groups. Works also speak to significant cultural traditions, such as the textile Japanese fishing jacket by John D. Konno. In addition, works are also derived from culturally based literature, such as the beautifully handcrafted bird houses based on the Iranian folktale, Simorgh. Carissa Samaniego’s piece, Riding the Fence, Pulling the Trigger, incorporates a quote from a poem in Gloria Anzaldúa’s book, Borderlands/La Frontera: “this is her home, this thin edge of barbwire.” Artist Samaniego reflects, this work “embodies the in-between place through poetic language to create an authentic conversation about the multiethnic, multicentered experience in America that resides in physical and psychological in-between spaces.”

Exhibiting Artists:

  • Milton Bowens

  • Carissa Samaniego

  • Enrique Chagoya

  • Keyvan Shovir

  • Haley R. Hatfield

  • Kerry Skarbakka

  • Alison Ho

  • Eun-Kyung Suh

  • John D. Konno

  • Khalid Akil White

  • Tammie Rubin

Lori Gilbert interviewed Keyvan Shovir from The Record, daily newspaper based in Stockton, California.

Keyvan Shovir presenting tow body of works. The Ascension and Simorgh.

The first features airplanes made of wood and mounted on a wall hanging.

“They come from my childhood history, being in war,” said Iranian-born Shovir, who is a graduate student at San Francisco’s College of Arts. “I was 3 years old when the war (with Iraq) ended (in 1988). But I have a very clear image of things.”

When he came to the United States seven years ago, he wanted to learn about the airplanes dropping bombs that he’d seen as a child.

“Interestingly, I found some connection with the United States,” Shovir said. “Most of the airplanes were purchased from the United States. The United States sold equipment to Iran, then supported Saddam Hussein. Each of those airplanes has a story in it.”

The installation called The Ascension is “more a conversation of technology and power and propaganda,” Shovir said.

His other installation, Simorgh, is based on a Persian legend and a 12th century poem, “Conference of the Birds” written by Sufipoet Farid ud-Din Attar. In it, the birds of the world gather to select a leader and the wisest bird, the hoopee, suggests they find Simorgh, a bird similar to the phoenix and considered the greatest of all birds. When they go in search of Simorgh’s nesting place, all they find is a lake and see their own reflections.

Shovir heard the story growing up and uses it as a metaphor for the 30 bird cages he created for his installation.

“People want to see a higher reality, break the chains and go to a higher freedom, somehow,” Shovir said “This journey is like an inner journey.

“In the end of the story only 30 birds remain. Coming back they saw their reflection in the water. We are Simorgh. We are 30 birds with no master.”

Although Shovir created 30 bird houses, each emitting different sounds from birds around the world, he is showing only seven of them at the Horton Gallery.

They represent Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, the countries in President Trump’s travel ban.

They also represent the seven valleys, or stages of the spiritual journey toward God, first introduced by Attar and written about in 1860 by Bahá’u’lláh. He describes the valleys of search, love, knowledge, unity, contentment, wonderment and true poverty and absolute nothingness.

“Most of my work is based on poetry and the inspiration of the story comes from a poem or old traditional literature,” Shovir said. “Also, I want to make a connection between the past and present, and somehow, the future.”

The Simorgh piece was turned on with a poetic performance as a call for spiritual journey .

read full interview here

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