Capturing the Immigrant Experience
Iranian-born artist Sara Rastegar
Three artists’ works transcend boundaries Special to 318 Forum
Immigration is a foundation of America.
Few in this country cannot trace at least part of their ancestry to an immigrant. Yet few of us clearly understand the challenges of immigrating and the courage it takes to explore and live the unknown. Iranian-born artist Sara Rastegar employs interdisciplinary practices encompassing installation art, sculpture, photography and printmaking to invite viewers to transcend boundaries and embrace the unknown. Utilizing a diverse array of artistic materials, including glass, bronze, plaster, wood, concrete and prints, her art engages the senses and prompts contemplation of the immigration experience. Rastegar is curating “Living the Unknown” and exhibiting with Iranian artists Nida Bangash and Fatemeh Hosseini at Artspace in downtown Shreveport, opening at 5 p.m. on Jan. 26. The three artists will also participate in an artists’ talk on Saturday, Jan. 27, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Artspace.
“Sight Plan, Living the Unknown” by Nida Bangash
Rastegar’s art is designed to underscore the universality of the immigrant experience and to emphasize that the journey into the unknown is not exclusive to crossing international boundaries. It is meant to resonate with anyone navigating the complexities of personal growth, confronting the unfamiliar, and summoning the courage to redefine a sense of self. Every material used is a deliberate choice. Recycled crushed glass poured directly onto the floor with no binder to hold the material in place serves as a potent symbol of vulnerability, uncertainty and exposure. In her art, soil carries profound symbolism, representing home and land. Its inclusion in the art speaks to the fundamental quest for belonging embedded in the immigrant narrative. In both English and Persian, text is woven through her work, creating a linguistic bridge and encouraging a dialogue with viewers on the complexity of the immigrant experience.
For Rastegar, the immigration experience transcends conventional boundaries. She says, “Immigration is not solely a geographical relocation, but rather a profound journey into the unknown, where the constants are unpredictability and change. It is both exhilarating and daunting, weaving together optimism and despondency and relentlessly testing our convictions and fortitude. At its core, immigration demands an unwavering bravery – a courage to confront uncertainties and navigate uncharted territories, whether they be physical or within the recesses of the mind.”
Internationally recognized glass artist and Fellow University of Texas at Arlington MFA graduate Eric Hess describes Rastegar’s art as significant. “What is extraordinary about Sara is that you walk away from her art being changed emotionally – impacted in some way. She came to this country with a great deal of art experience, but no glass art experience. She deliberately embraced this brand new medium with the intensely focused, intellectual, sophisticated way in which she seems to approach all things and excelled. Sara sees no barriers, breaches all boundaries and creates impressive work,” says Hess.
“I invite those viewing the ‘Living the Unknown’ exhibition at artspace in downtown Shreveport to contemplate the multi-faceted nature of immigration. It is a narrative that resonates with anyone navigating the complexities of personal growth,” says Rastegar.
Fellow exhibitor Nida Bangash’s art is intricate patterns and precise detail that weaves in personal identity and experience to investigate the complexities of immigration, colonialism, culture and race. Iranian filmmaker and interdisciplinary artist Fatemeh Hosseini uses an interactive installation of video art and visual art to explore a connection that might only exist intuitively but is an intersecting moment when the viewer responds to a quest to confront a state of alienation from the self and to find reconciliation through connecting.
Collectively, the three artists’ work encourages the audience to experience a deeper understanding of the shared human experience of adaptation and transformation, both physically and mentally. “It is our immigration experience that underscores the universality of the encounter, emphasizing that the journey into the unknown is not exclusive to those who cross international boundaries,” says Rastegar.
According to Rastegar, “Living the Unknown” celebrates the incredible bravery and resilience required to embark on a new journey. The artworks capture both the highs and lows, underscoring hope can prevail even amidst challenges. The art invites viewers to engage with the immigrant journey physically and emotionally. The use of various materials and techniques symbolizes the societal structures immigrants must navigate, the barriers and obstacles, and the resilience required to push through challenges. The exhibition challenges preconceptions and biases and becomes a testament to the enduring nature of hope in the face of the unknown.
Rastegar is a full-time professor in the Department of Foundation Studies at the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and served as an adjunct professor of art at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). She has an MFA in studio arts in glass from the University of Texas at Arlington; an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran, Iran; and a BFA in graphic design from the Art School of Neishabour, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran. She has exhibited extensively in Dallas, Arlington, Fort Worth, Louisiana, Vermont and Washington at the Bellevue Arts Museum, Wash.; the Texas Women Museum, Dallas; the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; and Pilchuck Glass School, Seattle, Wash., to name a few.
Rastegar recently moved to the Shreveport-Bossier area and has, from day one, sought ways to bring art into people’s lives. One of the ways she has accomplished this has been to establish a new, open-to-the-public art studio, “Point Studio Art,” at the Louisiana Boardwalk. The studio aims to bring people together through creativity and hands-on art experiences.
Nida Bangash is a full-time professor in the Department of Foundation Studies at SCAD. She served as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Art at Texas Women’s University and the University of North Texas, Denton, and as curator at Heard Natural Science and Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney, Texas. Fatemeh Hosseini is also a fulltime professor in the Department of Foundation Studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah, Ga. She has an MA in motion media design from SCAD and an MFA in painting from the School of Visual Arts, Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran.
Sara Rastegar, Nida Bangash and Fatemeh Hosseini exhibit “Living the Unknown” at Artspace in downtown Shreveport from Jan. 26 through March 16. All three artists will also participate in an artists’ talk on Jan. 27, 2 to 4 p.m. at Artspace at 708 Texas St. in downtown Shreveport. To find out more, visit www.arttspaceshreveport.com.