Artist Sheida Soleimani has translated her frustration with her home country Iran and it’s politics into a captivating and symbolically complex photographic series called National Anthem. Her parents fled the country in 1979 after the revolution that overthrew the pro-western Pahlavi dynasty took place. (Both parents were targeted for actively opposing the regime – her mother tortured, and her father escaping across the border.) As a political refugee in America, Soleimani observed her country transition through several fundamental changes and decided to express her disdain visually. Each photographic scene is an exploration of cultural themes and symbols all representing different aspects of the last 35 years in Iran, and the many different dictators and leaders the country has seen. Soleimani says:
In my photographic scenarios, cultural symbols and signifiers are appropriated to create a narrative in regards to my position as an Iranian-American viewing the Middle East from an outside lens. The usage of specific colors and political figures form a symbolic lexicon that runs throughout the series, while party supplies hint at the doctrines of ‘political parties’. Each of the photographs addresses a specific time in Iranian history, while alluding to how both the East and West have responded to societal occurrences. Through incorporating multiple layers, the lexicon can be read and refashioned by the viewers’ ideologies, creating images that remain coeval, while acknowledging former origins. (Source)
Combining collage, installation, performance and object assemblage, Soleimani creates powerful, emotional art-as-activism. The fierce mark making, scrunched up images, burnt candles, and mutilated cultural objects all have the hand of an aggrieved survivor. Managing to turn her deeply personal history into a series of clever, sarcastic visual puns, Soleimani’s artistic therapy is beneficial to us all.