Friday, January 6, 2012

Featured Artist: Shireen Agah Yadollahpour


First of all, please introduce yourself to our readers that might not be familiar with you and your work.

Featured artist Shireen Agah Yadollahpour
Photo: Jenn Curtin, NHS Photo student

My name is Shireen Agah Yadollahpour. I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, MI, and I currently reside in the Weymouth, MA with my spouse and my daughter. The environment that I grew up in had a profound impact on me, both as a person and artist, so I still call Michigan my home.

Since the age of eight, I knew that I would do something in the arts. I come from a highly competitive family of overachievers. Our house was loud and people were always moving about and talking fast--I retreated into a wallflower for many years, watching their exchanges quietly. I couldn’t compete with their energy levels and their voices. I began to draw because I found images articulated a thought better and more concisely than words could for me.

I chose Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts for my undergraduate studies, and earned dual Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in Art Education and in Painting in 1998. While in Syracuse, I realized that making work based off of personal narrative and experience was what I was most interested in. At the same time, the study of semiotics, aesthetics, and sensory experiences became important in my research. I found the process of how others visually read and interpret what’s happening on the surface or in the space fascinating.

In May of 2007, I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art with my Masters of Science in Art Education. I was enrolled in their studio track, so the majority of my course work was based in studio practice. That, I think, really forced me to consider my imagery and process even more, making me ask tougher questions and pushing me in a lot of different directions in order to pare down what was most essential.

Currently, what type of job(s) you do besides making art? Do you teach, write and/or curate art exhibits? If so, would you give us some details?

I began teaching visual art at Needham High School in 2003. I currently teach two full year sequence courses--Art 2 Honors and Art 3 Accelerated -- that expose students to a wide range of 2D media and some 3D media. I also teach two half year electives, Photography 2 and Drawing and Painting 2.

I would love the chance to curate exhibits, but at the moment, I’m only teaching and working in studio.

Could you give our readers some insight into your work in general? What media do you work in, what are the inspirations behind the creation of your work?

The body never lies. Our need for equilibrium and balance in our chaotic, stumbling experiences force us to adopt coping methods and self regulation. The collision of this chaos and reasoning results in a faltering sense of self that haunts me as an artist.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, I'd Ask You But the TV is On, Dressmaker patterns, pencil, and watercolor on paper, 22 x 30 inches, 2009.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, I removed myself and sure enough it happened. Ink, acrylic paint, gesso, pencil, collaged paper on prepared paper, 2009

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, Sleepless, I wasted myself. Watecolor,pencil, collaged papers on paper, 11 x 14 inches, 2009.

The idea for the work is usually shaken out from a spoken phrase or a disjointed thought. Once the words grab my attention, I begin researching and drawing out images that relate to the idea. My surfaces are chosen for their history and their ability to reference the body on some level -- gessoed paper with red to purple stains, or dried, unfolded teabags with saturated crease folds that I’ve drunk as a ritual. The space surrounding the images is important, because there needs to be a sense of tension and a layering that’s purposeful.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, I'm tired of being divided in two by your intentions, Dressmaker patterns, ink, pencil, charcoal, and gesso on paper, 2009.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, Hung up, Ink and pencil on white paper,
50 x 54 inches,

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, Six degrees of separation, Dressmaker patterns, pencil, gesso, ink, charcoal, and tempera on white paper, 2009.

I don’t think that I make work that is cool and edgy and visually hip; but I try to make work out of a need to connect to a part of me that is imperfect and scared and scarred and more. I think others can understand that and need that, too. As I once wrote to a student: It is human nature to communicate and create—yet we move increasingly away from that as convenience or speed or sexiness trumps truth or the sublime.

Would you like to share a bit your creative process with our readers? How does it all start, what techniques and materials do you use?

I often need to tailor my process to make it work within the demands of my schedule. For a while, I needed to work in small series because I never had long blocks of time to decompress and focus.

Studio view.

In progress.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, Lightly We Tread, Mixed media.

Now the pieces are getting larger again, and I can leave them and come back to them. The need to work on them builds up until I can actually get away and shut the door.

Saved collection.

I tend to plan a few at one time since the ideas are related, then work on them individually from start to finish.


Drawing detail.

My journal is important- I take it everywhere and see it as an extension of my body. I constantly work in it and use it to think.

Sketch book.

I prefer to work at night when it’s quiet and I can think clearly. I need to be alone with no one interrupting me. I don’t pick up the phone if someone calls. Music used to be important to me, but I’m slowly moving away from it since the silence calms me and allows me to breathe.


As much as I would like to work in a variety of different media, including plaster, resin, and other sculpture materials, right now I’m still focusing on the drawing. Pencil, ink, charcoal, trace, unfolded used teabags, old packaging, stencils, cut up drawings, watercolor swatches--these are the materials that are scattered across my workspace right now.


Fabric swatches.

Dressmaker patterns.


hile I have to be careful not to be seduced by the collage materials because of their sensual quality, I am interested in their history--where they’ve been, what they were or used for. For me, their sense of past is the backdrop that helps set up a narrative for the work.

Photo stack.

Do you have plans for your direction?

or my most recent work, the introduction of brighter color has been a big leap for me.

My journal contains many projects that I’ve considered and made plans for. One is a drawing/alternative photography project that requires a large showing space and a research trip back to Michigan.

Another project is an installation that I’ve been wanting to realize for over two years. It combines drawing and large scale sculpture, which I really want to work with. Installation fascinates me because the potential for narrative is so large, and the sensory experience is more layered. As much as I’ve admired sculpture (the two artists that have influenced me the most have been sculptors), I haven’t done much of it.

What is the most interesting comment about your work you have heard from a viewer?

“If I looked at you, I would never know that you’re mind works in such a dark way.”

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, Apologies for Tulsa, Ink, pencil, and collaged papers on prepared paper, 11 x 14 inches, 2009.

“Your work doesn’t hit me over the head, but rather it hits me right through the middle.”

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, Faded, Dressmaker patterns, pencil, charcoal, and ink on paper, 20 x 30 inches, 2006.

How have you handled the commercial and business side of being an artist during this financial climate?

I’ve been employed full time as an educator for eight years, so I’ve only slightly grazed the business side of art off and on. Now that I’m starting to concentrate more on studio, I’m learning more about the business end of it every day, and starting to create a network that I can more actively participate in. I find the marriage of creating and marketing your work to be exciting--I like the entreprenueral component.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, Translated, Antique book pages, pencil, colored ink, and gesso, 24 x 36 inches, 2006.

Have you been actively involved in the Boston area art community? If yes, could you tell us about your involvements? Did you find the support you are looking for in the community?

When I first moved to Boston, I had a great work space in the Fort Point area, which allowed me greater access to the Boston area art community. However, once I left to work full time and earn my graduate degree, it was difficult to keep up. I’m excited to be at a point in my life where I can start that involvement again and begin to focus on getting my work out there.

What galleries have you recently exhibited in?

I was in a show titled Look Twice Because Things Change in September, 2009 at the Arnheim Gallery at the Mass Art.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, You reached out to me but I still rejected your kindness, Ink, pencil, and collaged paper on paper, 22 x 30 inches, 2009.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, They Left With My Back Turned South, Ink, pencil, and
collaged paper on paper
, 22 x 30 inches, 2009.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, It will split and crack with your decision, Ink, pencil,
and watercolor on paper,
22 x 30 inches, 2009.

Recently, my work was up in a new shared office and networking space called Oficio on Newbury Street.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, Float, Acrylic, pencil, and canvas on
prepared paper, 20 x 28 inches, 2011.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, I'm listening, Acrylic, pencil, and canvas on
prepared paper, 20 x 28 inches, 2011.

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour, Looking up, Acrylic, pencil, and canvas on
prepared paper, 20 x 28 inches, 2011.

Would you like to inform our readers of your current and upcoming exhibits?

I have no definite shows at this time, but I am slated to show in the future at a space in Boston via ArtVenue.

Please share with us the awards and recognition you received in the recent years. How important are awards for your art career? Do they bring opportunities?

I was recently chosen to be included in an upcoming issue of Studio Visit Magazine, published by the Open Studios Press. I’m hoping that will lead to some new opportunities.

Would you provide links to articles about your work for interested readers to learn more about your work?

My work can be found on a few websites and blogs, including Art Venue and ONY Architecture’s design blog.

Are you available for commissioned works? Representing gallery if any? Would you like to share your contact info with our readers? Do you have website(s) about your work?

I’m available for commissioned works. Interested viewers can contact me via email at My artist website can be found at

Studio view.

Would you like to add anything?

hank you for the opportunity to be introduced to your readers!

All images courtesy of Shireen Agah Yadollahpour