Shahrzad Ahrar was the artist of this week’s gallery ‘Wake’ that I visited. The artist is currently a graduate student at CSULB. Seven years ago she came from Iran to the United States. Based on that background, her gallery is inspired by immigration. Ahrar wanted to figure out whether other immigrants from other countries would have the same experience. Thus, she interviewed four people of different ages who all came from a country where they had experienced war. Based on their answers the artist created different art works.
To retell their stories she designed art which included audio as well as visual elements. The four exhibited projects were a wallpaper that retells the story of an Afghani, kaleidoscopes which represent the journey of an Irani, a 3D light box that illuminates the immigration process from El Salvador, and lastly, tree posters that narrate the story of a Croatian.
The kaleidoscopes were first made with cardboard. But the commitee wanted it to look more real, so she used real pipes. When she finished building these she brought them to a person who colored them for her. The objects inside, that make it a kaleidoscope, are cutouts from acrylic sheets. Each of them is a symbol that represents one part of the story. There were four kaleidoscopes including the topics home, war, transit (way to America), and finally America. These kaleidoscopes present a chronological process of immigration. Besides the kaleidoscope the wallpaper is the favorite piece of the artist. It is made out of fabric, a safe material used in panels, so that the viewer can’t see where it starts and ends. The wallpaper included button for the viewer to listen to the immigration story behind. It is completely designed after the story’s background and will go to the interviewee after the gallery ends.
The posters represented a chronological journey of the immigration process from Croatia. The first one pictures war, which is the reason to come to America which is illustrated in the second poster with advertised buildings. The last poster shows the time in college at Mississippi State where the person felt very alone and got eventually homesick. All posters were first hand drawn and then revised through Photoshop.
This gallery was a step by step process. Each semester Ahrar thought about her projects. She showed her work to the commitee who had to approve it. All in all, it took the artist three years to finish this gallery in which only four out of twelve projects made it in.