Born in Iran, In 1984, Elham Hajesmaeili received a BFA in Handicrafts from Shiraz University in 2002, and received a MA in Art studies from University of Art, Tehran, Iran in 2010. She held some Group and solo painting exhibitions in different cities of Iran. Currently she studies and works at Penn State University as a graduate student. From 2015 when she arrived in the United States, Since she is experiencing living in a liminal space between Iranian and American cultures, she has continued her works based on the identity issue. Her works represent an observation of an identity shifting between two geographical context, while sexuality remains the silent power holder.
I grew up in Iran, a cultural plethora of ornaments and patterns. As a child, I had always been engaged with patterns in mostly all places, mosques, historical buildings, in the streets and even in our small house where I saw them on the carpets. I reckon the best way to embrace the sophisticated Persian culture with all its complexities is by looking at the interplay of a set of classic patterns. To me, ceramics, as my dominant material, and textiles are very nostalgic, thus I decided to apply them in my work because they are a physical sensation of my cultural ground. Besides, soil is a boundless natural matter found in everywhere and my forms are raised from the soil to challenge the relationship between identities within a global context.
As I entered the transitory space in between Persian and American culture, I found that the formation of my identity perception has become fractured. While my personal identity is strongly tied to my gender identity, other people often illustrate my identity through nationality. I scrutinize this disjuncture and seek answers to questions such as: to what extent is identity voluntary? Or is it obligatory? Do the geographical borders and political boundaries impose power over our identities? Can we alter the power system among the layers? Is it within our access to change this system? If it is, how deep can we delve into those layers?
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