Pa. artist illustrates the fight for women's rights in Iran

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Sunday, March 12, 2023
Pa. artist illustrates the fight for women's rights in Iran
The death of a 22-year-old Iranian woman sparked protests around the world, inspiring a local artist to open an exhibit in solidarity.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I have very fond memories of growing up in Iran," said Nazanin Moghbeli. "I lived there 'til I was about nine."

Moghbeli, who was actually born in the United States before moving to Iran and then back, always had an appreciation for her family's culture. She started to explore that heritage more when she became an artist.

"I really wanted to be an artist, but growing up with immigrant parents, that was a hard sell," she said. "But they actually really guided me very well into a liberal arts education."

Moghbeli also studied science, which served as the foundation for the other half of her life. Now, she alternates between professions as a cardiologist at Einstein Medical Center and an artist every two weeks or so.

Her latest body of work was inspired by the recent women's uprising in Iran. The protests were sparked by the tragic death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was apprehended by police in Tehran for not complying with the state's hijab policies.

"There are lots of women who want to veil... so I don't think it should be banned or forbidden," said Moghbeli. "But I don't think people should be forced to be veiled if that's not how they want to express themselves. And that's really, you know, a requirement that is infringing on the rights of women."

Thus, Moghbeli developed the "Unquiet Fury" exhibit, which blends calligraphy of Farsi writing with slashes of thick, black paint representing tension, trauma, and more. Some pieces of art are threaded together by lines symbolizing women's hair. And other pieces are infused with prints of CIA documents related to the 1953 Iranian coup d'état.

"Really an important turning point not only in Iran's history, but the history of, kind of, the Middle East," said Moghbeli.

The single-room exhibit found a home with the nonprofit, InLiquid, at The Crane Local Gallery in Olde Kensington, Philadelphia. The building hosts a rotating lineup of galleries that are typically scheduled one year in advance. But organizers were able to make Moghbeli's vision come to life on short notice.

"We felt really strongly about the work," said Rachel Zimmerman, Founding Executive Director of InLiquid. "And we felt that the timeliness of, you know, the Iranian women uprising is now. It can't wait."

InLiquid has extended the gallery's residence at The Crane for another week with the anticipated end date of Monday, March 20th. The gallery's hours are typically Wednesday through Saturday from 12pm to 6pm or by appointment.

But even after the exhibit is packed up or shipped away, Moghbeli hopes the message lasts.

"My hope is that their voice is heard," she said about the Iranian protestors. "I really wish for them to be free and to have the kind of normal life that you and I have."

Click here to learn more about "Unquiet Fury" or Moghbeli's work.

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