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The Elements: The Paintings of Mehri Yazdani


By Mahshid Modares

At Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose State University, California
May 1th-May 28th, 2014
Curated by: Mahshid Modares

Graphic designer: Mona Jalaeian

Presented by:

Sponsored by:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library is showcasing paintings by Mehri Yazdani, an Iranian-American Artist. This is the first time that Mehri Yazdani is exhibiting her work in Silicon Valley, a great opportunity for the community to know an award-winning artist and to observe her remarkable paintings.

Professor Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi, the president of San Jose State University
delivered the exhibition's opening remarks


Mehri Yazdani has exhibited her paintings internationally for the past several years. Her work has been presented in Greece, Germany, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, Washington, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ms. Yazdani has achieved numerous awards on the East Coast including the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in the Fine Arts and the William Emlon Cresson Traveling Scholarship to Europe.

Born in Tehran, Iran, Ms. Yazdani has lived in the United States for the last forty-three years. She has a degree in English Literature from Tehran University. Her postgraduate studies included Persian Literature and Middle Eastern Languages from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her fine Arts degree is from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Ms. Yazdani had also lived in Greece, where she painted and exhibited her work. She now lives in Sacramento, Northern California. Her work has been exhibited in Europe as well as in the United States. There is a permanent public display of six paintings in the Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection at the Library on the campus of California State University, Sacramento.


“The Elements” is the presentation of the primary forces of nature (water, air, earth, light) as seen by the civilizations of antiquity. The exhibition features paintings in which the love of art and poetry have been fused.

Joan Campion, an art critic, stated in the Arts Alive Magazine: “Yazdani’s canvases are large, powerful, rough-surfaced like rock walls, evoking thoughts of Time in both its destructive and creative aspects. Across them, painted in bright oils and acrylics, march archaic beings. The impression the works make, the interior vibrations they set going, are powerful, and linger long in the memory. Lines of Shelley, which the poet described as having been found in the ruins of an ancient city, come to mind: ‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:/Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair, Nothing beside remains.”

I take a fragment of the world and replace it by my own reality,

which is a portion of myself, my emotions, and underlying dreams of my inner self.

Kouros Gallery in New York released this statement: “Mehri Yazdani’s Paintings evolved out of her love for the art of ancient Persia, Greece, and Egypt. Her semi-abstract images give form to ancient motifs, creating a unique style, which captures the spirit of these early civilizations. Her vibrant colors in acrylic and oil, the texture of her canvases with their irregular surfaces reminiscent of the peeling paint of old frescoes, and the straightforward simplicity of her shapes all convey the strength and expressiveness of classical art. Her art, although inspired by the ancient motifs that have been a part of her life since her childhood in Iran, is a statement about time, which she views not as destructive, but as the starting point of a constructive communication about the immutability of beauty. With her belief that she is on a journey in search of the reality of true form, time becomes an element in which her art is nourished, and with which it is transformed.”

Mehri Yazdani states: “in this exhibition, I use the metaphors of water, air, earth and light, which appear in classical Persian poetry, as a common thread that weaves its way through each and every one of my paintings. Using abstraction, color and texture, I invite the viewer on a journey of the imagination.”


Mahshid Modares: You have studied English literature in Tehran and Persian literature at UCLA. What made you start painting and studying visual arts?

Mehri Yazdani: My involvement with art started at a very early age. Artistic talent is part of my heritage from my family. One of my professors at UCLA encouraged me to pursue art when she recognized that I had artistic talent. Therefore, I started to study art alongside my academic pursuit at UCLA. Then, I attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. The collectors at the very early stage of my art education, the professors at the PAFA, and the interest of galleries to exhibit my paintings swayed me to choose art as my profession.

Mahshid Modares: In what way your knowledge of Persian literature and English literature helped you with your subject matter?

Mehri Yazdani: Art and literature convey the dimensions of a society’s relation to nature. Metaphoric language in both is derived from nature. I have painted a series of paintings, which have evolved from and inspired by the primary forces of nature (light, air, earth, and water.) I draw subject matters from literature. Moreover, it shapes my approach to painting. I studied mystical poetry of 13th century Iran. The act of painting is like a mystical journey in search of Reality. In painting, this journey is a search of true form. Time in this journey is an element by which art is nourished and with which is transformed. In this transformation, forms go beyond appearances and express human emotions. Cezanne called this “realization.” He painted the “treeness” of a tree, and I paint the inner meaning of my subject.

Mahshid Modares: You lived and worked in Pennsylvania and you moved to Sacramento later. Have change of location affected your paintings? If yes, how?

Mehri Yazdani: Artists are influenced by their surroundings. The aesthetic value of artwork is preserved when the influence occurs subconsciously. Artwork is only partly done by the artist. Art has to draw from a broader knowledge like culture, memory, and personal experiences. I am eclectic in what I choose to paint. My concentration rests on what memory preserves out of aesthetic experiences of past years. In the broad study of the art of the past, so remote in time and yet so near to modern sensibility, I seek to discover the forms of my own appreciation. In this process, I take a fragment of the world and replace it by my own reality, which is a portion of myself, my emotions, and underlying dreams of my inner self. It is a slow development of a gradual inner growth. The glow of the pink horizon and the light in Sacramento resulted in brighter canvases.

Mahshid Modares: In your statement you call your paintings a bridge between sculpture and paintings. Please elaborate on this transition. Do you do sculpting, too?

Mehri Yazdani: The reliefs in Persepolis (520-450 BC) in Iran, which I had seen in my childhood, have left a strong impression on me. My artistic temperament finds expression when confronted with reliefs like sculpted Etruscan, ancient Greek, and Egyptian friezes. I try to create a textural surface to give the illusion of three-dimensionality on the two-dimensional surface. I do sculpt occasionally, but most of my time is dedicated to painting.

Mahshid Modares: How do you start a new canvas? Do you have a subject matter or an idea in your mind when you start a new canvas?

Mehri Yazdani: I work thematically on a series of paintings. Paint takes precedence over the idea as the painting develops. The act of painting is a journey in which forms are created in relationship to each other in order to achieve harmony. Familiar forms go beyond appearances and express my emotions.

Mahshid Modares: Were you interested in Greek art before going to Greece?

Mehri Yazdani: I studied ancient reliefs and old frescoes long before I went to Greece. The features of archaic Greek art closely resemble the solidity and flow of ancient Persian and Egyptian art. They connect me to the spirit of the past. They have made me interested in ideas related to the passage of time. To my eye, time doesn’t destroy, but rather gives a new face and a new sense of spirituality and discovery. The disintegrating surfaces of the frescoes and reliefs have influenced the texture of my paintings when I try to create the illusion of antiquity.

Mahshid Modares: Thank you for this interview and for bringing a new vision to the world of art!


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