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Eden Revisited: Shahram Karimi and the Re-Enchantment of Art

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Shahram Karimi: The Rose Garden of Remembrance at Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery in Manhattan

Shahram Karimi is the consummate artist, master of many mediums: painting, drawing, collage, set design, video and poetry. This Iranian born prophet carries battered suitcases blazoned with his itinerant refugee status committed into the very language of his painting.

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In the Garden, 2011, Mixed Media on fabric

Yet, in depositing his emotional baggage in the center of this stunning exhibition, the artist transforms his outsider identity into the ultimate insider. The reason for this is simple; the exhibit unveils a deeply personal universal polemic, in images and his native Farsi tongue, for reconciliation and transformation at a time - the Arab Spring - when the world desperately needs it.

His Iranian ancestry looms large in these remnants of fabric drenched in wells of personal memory. Weaving his desire through the roses connecting the very soul of his people into a personal rite of transformation integrating past, present and future -- Karimi resolves his lifelong issue: the search for a place to call home.

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Look (installation), 2009, Mixed Media on collected photographs

Home is in the garden city of Shiraz where the artist was born with a talent to express the deepest well of emotion. And home too is in the heart of Eros connecting the artist's emotional memories to his ancient past.

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Dream, 2011, Mixed Media on fabric

Yet, the home depicted in these exquisite series of paintings is also the communal space between spirit/matter and heaven/earth where a new archetype is born.

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Eyes (triptych), 2010, Mixed Media

In its intentional calling up of the Myth of Eternal Return for our time, The Rose Garden of Remembrance resurrects the original Garden of Eden where the Sacred Marriage Rites were performed as an annual fertility rite of rebirth and renewal. This holistic tradition entered Persian culture through the Zoroastrian divinity Mithra and his beloved Anahita, derivations from the Sumerian divine couple, Inanna and Dumuzi. We see this universal feminine face of divinity re-emerging through Karimi's unveiled women, integrating East and West.

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Forough, 2011, Mixed Media on fabric

In referencing the Persian precursor to Christ and intertwining Christian mythology with his own personal mythmaking in his installation collages and paintings...

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Installation Wall close up, photo by Lisa Paul Streitfeld

...Karimi delivers the filius philosophorum or infans solaris of his long time collaboration with the world famous < Shirin Neshat, designing the sets of her award winning videos and film, Women Without Men.

And here it is, contained in a single iconic painting...

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Women and Allah, 2011, Mixed Media on fabric

As the final work completed prior to this exhibition, Women and Allah encapsulates the narrative of Karimi's marriage of traditional Persian painting and contemporary while fusing the personal and universal mythological hero's journey narrative. Not surprising, this boy has the face of the artist.

This iconic image heals the wounds of the patriarchal religions, restoring the role of the feminine as birth mother and the divine son as the inner light of humanity re-enchanting us, once again, with painting. This is the lasting legacy of Shahram Karimi: The Rose Garden of Remembrance, reclaiming the past so that we may presently absorb a future that honors both the masculine and feminine face of divinity.

Shahram Karimi: The Rose Garden of Remembrance is on view through June 18 at the Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery in New York City.

Photos courtesy of LTMH Gallery, NY.