Aphrodite Desiree Navab, an Iranian-born American photographer, will be documenting her experiences as an outsider in the community in her new exhibit at the University of the Arts’ gallery. Her exhibit, “I Am Not a Persian Carpet,” speaks out against how American culture teaches its citizens to be unnecessarily negative towards outsiders and outside cultures.
The exhibit is a response to Navab’s own experiences as an Iranian-American and the impact it has on her everyday life. Navab first wrote an 11-line poem, reflecting through powerful declarations on what she has gone through and what she demands.
With lines such as “You may not step on me,” Navab releases her frustrations. Each of the 20 photographs are titled by a line in the correlating poem, “I Am Not a Persian Carpet,” as Navab seeks to explain her Iranian culture in America after Iran’s 1979 revolution.
Before 1979, Iran had good relations with the United States. But the 1979 revolution not only lost Iran as an ally – it generated hate and disgust toward Iranians in the eyes of Americans. Instead, the non-threatening and redeeming aspects of Iranian culture, such as the famous hand-woven carpets, which remained prevalent in the United States, were referred to as “Persian.”
“The poem and the accompanying art is a response to American stereotyping and how her heritage has picked up a negative stereotype,” said Nancy Burlan of the University of the Arts gallery.
Burlan explained how Navab no longer calls herself an Iranian, but Persian, because of the negative connotation associated with the word “Iranian.”
Navab received her B.A. in visual and environmental studies from Harvard University before completing her M.A., Ed.D. and Ed.M. from Teachers College, Columbia University. After receiving honors, including the Purchase Award from Arkansas State University and the David McCord Prize for Outstanding Visual Artist from Harvard University, Navab began to work on solo exhibitions. Her work has been displayed throughout the country.
Navab was selected to showcase her exhibit at the University of the Arts through a jury decision and careful consideration of how her work would mesh with the surrounding community.
“This is primarily a gallery for the students’ benefits. We judged the impact of Navab’s work and how valuable it will be for the students to see it,” Burlan said of the selection process.
“I Am Not a Persian Carpet” is open through March 12, and will be displayed at Gallery 1401, located in the Terra Building at The University of the Arts, 211 S. Broad St. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, contact (215) 717-6300.
Pooja Shah can be reached at email@example.com