Interview with Maryamsadat Amirvaghefi

Can you talk a bit about your background and where you’re from?

I was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1989. I graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Art with an MFA, and I completed my BFA at the Sooreh Art University, Tehran, Iran, in 2013. I moved to the United States in 2015, and I am currently working at the University of Arkansas School of Art as an Assistant Director of Exhibitions and Instructor.

Can you tell us about your practice?

My emphasis is on how artists or athletics create an emotional connection and the effect of gender and nationality on their practice. I propose that certain aspects of being an artist are similar to being athletes. The notion of ‘anything goes’ has played a vital role within my studio practice.Not only am I free to bounce from medium to medium, but I can also play with a variety of materials and techniques. Over the past four years, I have worked to create a visual language that is authentic and unique. During this time, I have explored the use of clay, paint, collage, video, and installation within my practice. This diversity has allowed me to create a large amount of work with the hopes of finding a successful vehicle for my content. The ideology of collage or cut-and-paste is the core of my art practice; it allows me to juxtapose the image and manipulate the existing images to create a new narrative that is more aligned with my content. While I edit the video or use my old drawings as my collage materials, I think about my art practice as a game that i can destroy, renew, or change the rules of the game instead of accepting a result that everybody expects.

My Top 11 Players, 2019, acrylic on panel, 30x49in

How would you explain your processes whilst making? How do you go from idea to finished piece?

I see connections between the way that I process my content and how I create work. I checked the news every day, especially the political and sports news that is related to my motherland, Iran, as well as the United States, where I currently live and work. News has a significant impact on my daily life, my subconscious mind, and my artworks. Also, TV and social media become my primary source for any sports event in Iran. The way that I receive the information created a situation where I am not watching in ‘real-time,’ but instead, I am watching content sometimes that had already been edited and censored. If I want to describe the processes of my works with few words, I have to say, receiving the information, create artworks, edit, edit, and edit. The ideology of collage or cut-and-paste is the core of my art practice; it allows me to juxtapose the image and manipulate the existing images to create a new narrative that is more aligned with my content. While I edit the video or use my old drawings as my collage materials, I think about my art practice as a game that I can destroy, renew, or change the rules of the game instead of accepting a result that everybody expects.


Would you say you had a traditional or untraditional route into the arts?

Like most of the undergraduate students, I started with traditional techniques, and I worked mainly with painting and drawing media, but after two years, I started moving toward the way that I could create new imagery and experiment with different materials. My experience during a grad school was different, and I start working as a multidisciplinary artist work with mixed media mediums of painting, video art, and sculpture pieces. 

Without Root Without Land, 2018, mixed media on paper, 18 x 24in

Social media, especially Instagram, has been said to have democratised the art-world. From your experience, do you see truth in this?

It is a hard question to answer because social media and especially Instagram, can create a platform for you to have an interaction with followers all around the world. Also, I am wondering what does the popularity of an artwork depend on Instagram? To answer your question about democratised the art-world, I have to say yes! It has faded boundaries of geographical location, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.


The art world has felt inaccessible by many working-class individuals, not only in terms of trying to succeed within it, but also in regards to feeling welcome in galleries and museums. Was art a part of your environment when growing up, or was it something that you engaged with later in life?

Since I was a child, I always heard that being an artist is the opposite of a wealthy and comfortable life, which is not a lie! The first artist I see around myself when I was a child was my uncle, who was a painter, and when I grow up, I was surrounded by my cousins, who became director and musician. When I was 14 years old, my parents allowed me to go to the Art School instead of high school; it wasn't an easy decision for them because they knew it is hard to make money and survive with art and Art school costs more! I see that decision as to the first step to my art carrier, and I still appreciate them!

MARMAR XSSSSS, 2020, mixed media on paper, 18x24 in

What do you appreciate about the art-world?

Art gives me hope, motivation, fun, and energy to fight! I see it as is the only weapon that I have. For those of us who have been in the fight, the prospect of more warfare will generally seem impossible, battling against extraordinary clichés, taboos, and the inequality of human rights/women's rights. I have always known that these issues were not going to be easy to contend with, but I have to keep fighting because otherwise, there will be no future. For someone like me who has chosen art as the only and best language for communication, accepting the unequal situation would means the end of the world.


Conversely, what frustrates you about it?

Both gender and nationality play an essential role in the art world; they can be both an advantage or a disadvantage. Whether international or not, the audience automatically categorizes an artist based on their ethnicity and sex. 

I am from a part of the world that is recognizable as a core of the hot political artwork; I always have to be prepared to receive comments from curators, gallery visitors, and art enthusiasts about how my work illustrates my gender and nationality. I try to be different from the recognized elements, which are not always close to the expectations of western viewers. As a female artist and specifically a female artist from the Middle East, I have to deal with the negative view toward Muslim women and women who are from authoritarian regimes. People in the art world expect to see these women as weak and submissive. As a result of these expectations, I often wonder if my viewers have been waiting to see some specific cliché in my works. I wonder if it is possible for me to ‘win,’ whether in life or the artworld

My Hero's Hero's Jersey, 2019, acrylic on panel, 24x48in

What would you say has been your top experience in your art career?

I just started making jerseys, shorts, and other sport outwears from scratch. I start designing and making them based on my artworks, and each of them has the story behind them. I see it as an exciting project and starting point for further activity in my art carrier.


What is your dream project?

My dream project is making athletic shoes that I designed! I have a collection of drawings that I designed my favourites sport shoes, each of these shoes has its title, character, and stories.


What do you feel is integral to the work of an artist?

Art requires you to use your mind and your body at the same time. What we do in art is learned through repetition and exercise. Whatever the outcome, you should always take responsibility – your work is your work, not anyone else’s. You cannot push responsibility off onto others or hide behind anyone. The combination of physical and emotional create self-awareness for you as an artist and your audiences. Art has the potential to be quite therapeutic, both for the artist and the viewer.


What’s the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given?

One of my friends told me, Art is like Diabetes, not a broken bone! It is always with you.


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