Amitis Motevalli

Amitis MotevalliArtist’s Statement

My mediums change, but the focus of my work has centered on signage and symbology from Iranian and Islamic/Shia art and how they are significant in the construction of histories through documentation. I’m also interested in how the Shia aesthetic is one based in resistance, rebellion and sacrifice. I look at daily uses of images or symbols from the battle at Karbala, or the ways that Islam was adapted to convey messages of justice/injustice. I’m not so much interested in conveying the devotional or spiritual aspects, rather the uses of icons, iconoclasm and symbols. I am also influenced by symbology used in American pop culture in particular, as generated from within a people’s struggle, but also from American media.

My exploration is in methods, which construct a collective perspective. Although my work changes in form, the connective thread in the content looks at the creation of symbols or icons through persuasion or other means. I am interested in what gives power to images or language and how they can represent philosophies or actions.

All symbols are things that represent something else. I focus on those created by a collective understanding either locally, influenced by culture and context or understood globally based on human experience. My work is influenced by art production that isolates and discusses those symbols, ranging from minimalism to communication art. More than anything, my body of work exploits the signifiers relayed through iconic symbols. It looks at how icons can be complemented through their various linguistic messages and how they can be manipulated to change historical circumstances.



Select Solo Exhibitions from 2010-2012

Jokes on Me/ Stupid Muslim Jokes, Aarhus Kunstbygning Center for Contemporary Art
Qhatta Piece, Aarhus Kunstbygning Center for Contemporary Art

Everyday Imamzadeh, Outpost for Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Aaran Gallery, Tehran, Iran

Here/There, Then/Now, Aaran Gallery, Tehran, Iran

Select Group Exhibitions from 2011-2012

Mise en Abyme, Iranian Arts Now festival, Cite des Arts, Paris
The Elephant in the Dark, Devi Art Foundation, Delhi

Sand Ninja – Passports to Ninjastan, Eastside Arts Alliance, Oakland, Calif.; African American Culture Complex, San Francisco
Postcards from Tehran, 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica, Calif.

Awards and Fellowships

Danish Arts Council International Resident Artist
United States Artists
Center for Cultural Innovation, Artistic Innovation
California Community Foundation, Emerging Artist Fellowship
James Irvine Foundation, Vision of California
Montalvo Artist Residency Fellowship
National Endowment for the Arts / Andy Warhol Foundation, project fellowship


M.F.A., 1998
Claremont Graduate University

B.A., 1995
San Francisco State University