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Meet award-winning Katayoun Afrooz.

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

We are very happy to introduce to you Katayoun Afrooz. An award winning artist who creates very mystique and magical conceptual pieces. Here is what she had to say.

Can you tell our readers about yourself? I was born in Tehran, Iran, the side of the world where you grow up with conflicts, war, totalitarianism, beautiful culture, heritage, and family tights that are as deep as the roots of a Japanese pagoda tree!

My family was into arts, poetry, and cinema. My grandfather, a writer, and a poet, had a deep love and great taste in movies, other than old Hollywood movies, which we enjoyed tremendously. We watched films by great directors such as Luis Buñuel, Fellini, Bergman, etc. I feel bliss, and I think my passion for being an artist came from that time in my life.

Tired of the repressed society of my home country, I moved to the US when I turned eighteen to go to university and fell in love with how you can live in a free society. I also fell in love with the American people. Despite very few of their political leaders, Americans are the nicest and more loving people.

So, I decided to stay and explore. After finishing film school and working in society, I moved back to Iran to rediscover my birth land. I traveled through the whole country for about two years, then started traveling around the world for about eight years, then came back to the US and resigned in California.

I love eastern culture, but I also love western culture, especially in arts and philosophy. My interest has always been mixing the two to balance myself and my art.

When you become an immigrant, you don't belong anywhere anymore, part of you belongs to your chosen country, and part of you is where you were born. So, you are never whole again, which can be good if you are an artist.

Tell us about the videos & images you create. Is there a story you can share about your inspiration for your work? or a specific piece?

After traveling and exploring for ten years, I realized all humans are the same; no matter where you were born, west, or east, it does not matter; we all suffer the same, and we all pursue the same things. We want freedom, happiness, and love. I believe my work explores the inner world, the notion of one's self.

I am more interested in that, as Rumi says: "There is my body, in it an ocean formed of his glory, all the creation, all the universes, all the galaxies, are lost in it."

Growing up with Poets surely made an impact on me. Great Persian poets like Ferdowsi and Rumi made me think about what it means to be a human. Since my culture is very symbolic, I use symbols and metaphors in my arts.

I like the tensions between the inner and outside worlds, and I try to use that. I want to see how failure, suffering, and loss affect us as human beings and learn about people who suffered and found their ways back again. These are the things that interest me, being human. Exploring humanity and studying complex human issues through symbolic artworks.

Good art always has elements of spirituality within it to guide us, ask good questions, and help us find our ways and identify with those who have suffered and conquered their fears.

What part of your life has inspired you to create/Why do you create?

My mind has always been full of questions. Art, for me, raises every possible question, even sometimes with no answers to be found, which is okay. We are here to ask questions; we must question everything.

I love beauty, beauty in people, animals, things, and places, and sometimes, it is not the conventional beauty; it may be dark in the traditional sense of the word. Beauty does not have a definite meaning for everyone; it is different for different people. I create to find myself, to find out who I am, sometimes I create out of frustration, because I cannot live in my own country for my political opinions.

Sometimes I create to find out my demon's names.

And sometimes, when the world becomes too ugly, I create my own beautiful world. To have good energy, good mood, create to transport myself when I feel anxious, to ease my pain just like when I listen to music or when I am in nature. Sometimes art is the only medicine we need.

How did you discover art? I genuinely believe we all are artists and storytellers reclaiming our narratives and listening to each other. I became an artist because of the environment that shaped me, where I am from is full of beauty and humanity and wonderful people, but at the same time full of ugly situations and violence. I was absorbing everything at the time of war and bombing and ugliness that I was growing up with, and I turned to art for comfort. I watched great movies and escaped the horror; that is how art impacted my life and upbringing.

Can you tell us about a significant moment in your artist journey? This story may have been a part of what shaped your message. The moment I realized the simpler we are as humans or artists, the more complete our work and ourselves become. Which piece of yours is your favorite? and why? I cannot stay with one medium; I have an adventurous personality, desire to explore, so as a filmmaker, I have done short fictions, short documentaries, as a photographer, I do documentary-style photography. I am also interested in fashion, conceptual and fine art photography. With my experimental works is where I am inviting my audience into a sonic portal of my memories and emotions and holding up mirrors to your longing and my longings. I am conflicted between the outer and inner worlds, and through moving images with emotional and symbolic communications, I can explore that.

My latest work is a thirty-minute experimental film based on a famous Iranian storyteller "Scheherazade" through the symbolic narrative, it explores a women's journey of self-discovery. I am pretty proud of my honesty in this film.

What Art or artist has influenced your work? I am influenced mainly by my mother, watching and observing her, who is incredibly strong even in stressful situations like politically, personally, and economically. She is a fighter who keeps the whole family together and always revolts against the authorities indefiant ways.

I admire her strength and abilities; she is a definition of a strong woman. For me, she always cares so deeply.

I love Maya Deren's work, also Jane Campion films, they are always so inspiring to me. I admire Abbas Kiarostami's works who was at one time also my teacher and mentor, I learned from him to a great extent; he also taught me if you figure out your worldview, you do not need to stay in one medium. I also greatly admire Monir Farmanfarmaian's and Cody William Smith's artworks. What most interests you about people being the subjects in your work? I like working with the new generations; I love their views on life and their demands for freedom; I love how most of them are concerned about real issues such as global warming and how to be human; I usually prefer working with them.

What do you think your work/style says about you?

That I believe in the power of art, that I am a rebel and cannot quite fit in anywhere, that I am full of contradictions, I'm strong, fragile, adventurist and extremely vulnerable. Above all I believe in the power of humanity, beauty, and love.

If you could give advice to any artist or even a friend about being an artist, what would you say? And why? Be authentic and true; that is all that matters, it is the only way we can connect with each other.

Is there anything else you want our readers to know about your artwork(s)? About the artist behind the art?

I tried to make dream-like states with moving images with my experimental films and visual art works. Like any dream, it contains hidden meanings that should be examined with our conscious awareness.

The symbolic messages that try to connect with you and make you think. Thus, I like my audience to be aware of that when watching my work.

Top three things you needed to be where you are today. Intellectual curiosity for life, learning, and wondering. Becoming more mindful of people and environments, and knowing actions breeds courage.

Huge thank you to Katayoun for sharing your artistic insights and life experience! Be sure to follow her instagram, linked below.

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