Los Angeles-based artist Maysha Mohamedi makes large-scale abstract paintings whose bold colors and mark-making represent certain moments in her life. Mohamedi translates her everyday experiences as a woman, a mother, a wife, and an immigrant onto her canvases, pulling inspiration from the iconic calligraphic lines of Farsi, her native language. Here, we learn more about Mohamedi’s intriguing practice.
Photo credit: Maria Kanevskay
When did art first enter your life?
I saw three types of art in my childhood home: my mother’s watercolors of architectural seaside landscapes symbolizing the political climate between Iran and the United States, a coffee table book of Persian miniatures, and my Garfield comics collection. My first museum visit was to the Louvre when I was 18 years old.
Courtesy of The Lodge
What themes are you exploring in your work?
Being Persian, being American, language and the evocative power of line, visions of humanity, play, and the emotional valence of primary color combinations from the 1980s.
Courtesy of Gallery 16
Has your work always taken on an abstract composition?
I first drew cartoons and then the representational figure; these activities are the foundation of my abstract line.
Courtesy of Lowell Ryan Projects
Why do you use multiple materials, some quite unorthodox, in the creating of your work?
I want to feel like I am making a mess, stirring a potion, panning for gold, or inventing some new physics when I push an implement onto a surface. Unorthodox materials yield unpredictable marks and special collisions of color and line.
What artists most inspire you?
I am drawn to artists who prioritize discovery in their work. Diedrick Brackens, Trulee Hall, and Simphiwe Ndzube are three Los Angeles artist who consistently show me something I have never seen before.
You studied science as an undergrad. How does this world enter into your artistic practice?
The scientific method is about putting forth a hypothesis and then testing its validity through experimentation. One’s findings are verified in a peer reviewed journal and then accepted by the scientific community. It’s possible to apply metrics to artwork, too: for example, I have read that predominantly green paintings are sold far less frequently than paintings of any other color. But, the way in which an artwork is deemed successful by the art community – positive reviews, acquisition by important collections, sales – is statistically unbound by the variables that motivated its creation in the first place. The artist has 100% control over defining and presenting what’s meaningful. I am cognizant of this absolute freedom when I am in the studio.
You recently opened a solo show “Deep Seep” at Left Field Gallery. Can you tell us about the body of work on view?
“Deep Seep” opened in my hometown of San Luis Obispo, California. While making the paintings, I repeatedly listened to a moody ballad about young love called “Thirteen,” by Big Star. The song reminds me of the chronic sense of longing I felt while growing up in a small town and of my parental desire for my sons to experience romantic love one day. I tried to channel all this deep emotion, welling up from two poles of my life – young girl and now, mother – into the paintings. This work also comprises my most rigorous exploration of tar and oil to date; beach tar hand-collected from the California Coast, ashy roofing tar, and oil paint all presented on single surfaces.
What are you most excited for this year?
More studio; more time with my boys; more beach; a little less Instagram.
At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?