It has been one year since the pandemic began. In "The Creative Grind" series, ARTery reporters spoke to individual creatives to assess the financial and artistic impact of COVID-19 in Massachusetts.
Shabnam Jannesari works on large scale paintings. She fills her work with patterns that evoke Persian rugs, and she uses vibrant hues of blue, orange and purple.
Three years ago, Jannesari moved to Massachusetts from Isfahan, Iran to pursue a masters of fine arts. Now, she’s in her final year at UMass Dartmouth.
Through self-portraits and portraits of the women she’s closest to, she explores how the Iranian patriarchy censors women.
When the pandemic shut down her studio last spring, there wasn’t much she could do. Since her paintings are so large, it was impossible for her to paint in her small New Bedford apartment. “I started to work on the small size, but it didn't work for me,” she says.
Without being able to paint, Jannesari’s anxiety rose. “It was very sad for me that I couldn't paint during that time,” she says.
She resorted to watching countless episodes of "Shameless" and talking to her family in Iran. She cooked the food her mom makes at home.
Jannesari felt that there was more that she could do. She turned to working on her writing since she is not a native English speaker. She focused on grant writing and improving her artist statement to prepare for future opportunities.
Prior to the pandemic, Jannesari had her own special process to develop compositions and inspiration for her enthralling paintings.
During trips to Iran where she’d shoot photographs to serve as inspiration for her artworks. The women she paints, who gaze out from the center of her canvases, are surrounded by a rich tapestry of layers. She creates this effect by collaging her photos and painting from them.
Without being able to travel, Janessari needed a new way to gather material to paint. Jannesari found herself looking for new sources of inspiration and began asking her relatives to send her pictures from Iran. She juxtaposed these images of objects with photos that she’d taken here of herself, essentially creating new subjects for her work.
“Right now, my latest painting is me here in New Bedford in my new apartment combining with some objects like carpet of my grandparents in their home in Iran or some other objects from my home, from my mom.
The pandemic filtered Jannessari’s work through a new lens, bringing together her life here with her Iranian heritage.
This segment aired on April 7, 2021.