Persian Visions exhibition to shed new light on Iran

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Walking through the Persian Visions Exhibit in the Low Gallery of Peeler Art Center, visitors are invited to look at a less-explored side of Iran. High contrast prints and mysterious videos contrast the war-torn Iran the media shows with a more beautiful version.
The exhibition, which illuminates 20 Iranian artists and 58 original works of art, was made possible in part by the Ilex Foundation, the University of Minnesota McKnight Arts and Humanities Endowment and the Department of Art and Regis Center for Art at the University of Minnesota. These institutions have been working with DePauw University since February 2012 to bring the exhibit to campus.
Though the artists come from different parts of Iran, the works seem to flow as one consistent show that brings together black and white prints, color prints, video and audio elements.
Craig Hadley, curator of exhibitions and university collections, hopes the exhibit will shine a new light on Iran that many students are unaware of.
“For many Americans, our familiarity with Iran is colored almost exclusively by conflict, political instability and the threat of nuclear weapons,” Hadley said. “The photography and film in Persian Visions provides a completely different perspective on how we might come to try and understand life in Iran.”
The sound of a man walking over crunchy gravel can be heard throughout the high-ceilinged room, matching the footsteps of those observing the pieces.
Many of the works feature high-contrast black and white colored pieces such as those by artists Ebrahim Khadem Bayat and Koroush Adim.
 Their pieces feature up-close views of Iranian people, as well as panoramic views of urban landscapes. Their works also overlap different photos to create multi-layered prints.
Other artists utilize a wide variety of camera lens techniques, combining soft and hard focus to illuminate certain parts of photos.
Many of the prints are set up in unique ways to guide viewers around the room and encourage engagement.
Yahya Dehghanpoor’s untitled piece incorporates photos of Iranians’ eyes and leaves a blank space with simply a mirror behind it, which makes the viewer seem as if they are also in the piece.
“I felt like many of the pieces were trying to get me to see myself in the Iranian’s shoes, or in this case, their eyes,” first-year student Kainat Akmal said.
Though many of the pieces were clear in their meanings, others left students confused as to their purpose, which was the case for sophomore Lauren Chen.
“Though a lot [of the pieces] were intriguing, I missed the point of a great many of them,” Chen said. “I liked the surrealist quality many of the photos had, but I was extremely confused at what the artists were trying to get across.”
Many of the clearer pieces tried to focus on the hardships that war has brought upon the country of Iran, such as those photographed by Mohammed Farnood. These pieces acted as portals into the grief that comes with the loss and destruction that war can bring.
“Persian Visions engages conflict and struggle in a much more human way,” Hadley said, “one which processes these struggles through the lens of human emotion, narrative and hardship.”
Overall, the exhibit shows one large interpretation of both public and private lives of Iranians. It will bestow that vision upon the DePauw community for the next three months.
The exhibit will be open through May 8, with a talk on contemporary Iranian art as it relates to the exhibition on Monday, March 3. Pamela Karimi, assistant professor of art history at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, will present the lecture to provide more insight into the works and the artists behind the pieces.
“Although Western news media bombards us with visual reminders of conflict in the region,” Hadley said, “I hope the exhibition will challenge our limited perceptions of Iranian cultural values and daily life.”