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‘Transformation’ Opens New Year at Penn College Gallery


An inspired blend of ancient Iranian culture and modern Manhattan architecture, “Transformation” opens 2017 in The Gallery at Penn College. Running from Jan. 12 through March 2, the exhibit showcases works by Zahra Nazari, a native of Iran who resides and works in New York City.

A Meet the Artist Reception is set for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, featuring an artist’s talk at 5:30 p.m. The reception and exhibit are open to the public and free of charge.

Zahra Nazari’s "The World Is Beautiful Before It Is True,” acrylic on canvas, 48 x 84 inches
Zahra Nazari’s “The World Is Beautiful Before It Is True,” acrylic on canvas, 48 x 84 inches

Spatial ambiguity over the course of cultural change is the explored theme of Nazari’s paintings and installations. Structures both ancient and contemporary are merged into abstract, organic forms with floating, collapsing and shifting environments. This unification is represented with both laws and chaos to convey the unsettled sensations caused by the transition between different cultures.

“The base of my work is inspired by Iran’s ancient culture, and has yet to be a social or political commentary. However, I have always felt instability in my life: First, my youth in Iran, growing up with war. Now, as an Iranian immigrant in the United States, Iranian political conflicts and social constraints plague my mind and influence my emotions,” Nazari said. “My imagery is often intermingling fragmented forms of architectural structures from Iran and America. The chaotic composition of vibrant brush strokes is to evoke and express my feelings of instability and uncertainty.”

Growing up in Hamadan, one of the oldest cities in Iran, the artist says she was fascinated at a young age by the many excavations of ancient buildings and artifacts.

“It was this ancient architecture within the now-modern Hamadan that seeded my personal style,” Nazari said. “I tended toward earth-toned colors, dreamlike space and structures, and images of tarps (which came from observing the tarps and tents that were a part of the archeological sites). Time, erosion and degradation have since become the major themes in my work.”

Nazari received a Master of Fine Arts in painting/drawing from State University of New York, New Paltz, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Art & Architecture, Tabriz Islamic Art University, Iran.

She was awarded the 2016 Meyer Family Award for Contemporary Art from the Main Line Center; an Artist in the Marketplace Fellowship from the Bronx Museum of the Arts; a residency at Cooper Union School of Art; and the Ruth Katzman Scholarship from the Art Students League Residency at Vyt. She has exhibited in national and international museums and galleries including: Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, in Newark, New Jersey; China Millennium Monument, Beijing; Hartnett Gallery, University of Rochester; and Spartanburg Art Museum, Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Her studio is at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in Manhattan.

“New York City has been a major impact on my work for the last few years,” the artist said. “I enjoy exploring the notions of modern cities and contemporary architecture. With my new exposure to the largest contemporary museums, admiration for architecture and a life in a metropolitan city, my work shifted to large abstracted architectural paintings and installations.”

The Gallery at Penn College, located on the third floor of Madigan Library, is open 2 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The gallery is closed on Saturdays and Mondays, and will be closed on Sunday, Jan. 15.

In addition to serving as an educational resource for Penn College students and a cultural asset to the college and community, the gallery is dedicated to promoting art appreciation through exhibitions of contemporary art.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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