27 February 2024

A Memorial Was Observed

Maryam Amirvaghefi delves into
poignant Iranian narratives


by Kate Mothes

“The flower wreath is usually a symbol of victory and honor, seen on the shoulders of athletes who’ve clinched a medal or warriors returning triumphant from battle,” says artist Maryam Amirvaghefi. In her recent work, “it becomes a tribute to those who became heroes through resistance, a symbol of their bravery and the fight they waged against oppression.”

Born in Tehran, Amirvaghefi moved to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Her multidisciplinary practice spans painting, sculpture, video, and mixed-media collage in an ongoing examination and illumination of narratives of victims of the oppressive Iranian government. She is particularly focused on “those who bravely stood for the Women’s Life Freedom movement, a poignant struggle for justice and equality,” she says. “I’m shining a light on the heroes we’ve lost to the Iranian regime—ordinary people who became extraordinary in their fight for freedom.”

Amirvaghefi often incorporates imagery and emblems of sports, probing notions of team dynamics, movement, and energy, all rich in symbolism. In the series Tactile Memories, the artist collages images of sporting events and Iranian athletes into optically buzzing patterns of lines and grids that are sometimes cut out or reveal Magic Eye-like motifs. Imagery of hands, bare skin, flowers, and collective celebration combine in a study of touch.

The Linnet – A Bird Always on the Move

The exploration of tactility and how our cognitive abilities and memory preserve these haptic stimuli takes us on a journey through time and memories,” says Tehran-based writer and curator Ashkan Zahraei. “It allows us to reconnect with past experiences and sensations, bringing them back to life in the present moment.”

In a recent duo exhibition titled A Memorial Was Observed; Forgotten Time, with artist Mehrdad Mirzaie at Arizona State University, Amirvaghefi installed a central assemblage with ceramic sculptures depicting floral wreaths, candles, and droplets of blood on marble-patterned tiles evocative of memorials or mausoleums.

“Through these everyday items, I want to convey the universal experience of grappling with loss, pride, and remembrance,” Amirvaghefi says. “These items become a bridge between the celebration of victories and the mourning of lives cut short, inviting viewers to reflect on the profound impact of these unsung heroes and the ongoing struggle for freedom.”

See more on the artist’s website and Instagram.

We Learned To Cry Happy Tears, 2021. Ceramic
Installation view of A Memorial Was Observed; Forgotten Time
Installation view of A Memorial Was Observed; Forgotten Time
Left: They Cut Her When She Bloomed Again. Right: Watch Their Smile Just Slowly Disappear
I RUN OUT OF TEARS, 2021. Ceramic

All images © Maryam Amirvaghefi

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