For this month’s Centerfold Artist, our first since Trop’s post-Labor Day return to glory, we’re trying out a new format. As ever, we’re building our artist interviews around a Playboy-style datasheet; we figure if centerfolds get to answer questions about their favorite colors, artists should too. But while in the past we built a podcast around the unveiling of this datasheet from the secrecy of its big, brown envelope, in the privacy of our studio, without the artist present, now we’re adding an in-person interview to the mix, which we’ll run below in text to complement our podcast.
Our artist for this first edition of our expanded format is Ms. September, Hedieh Javanshir IIchi. Hedieh is a resident at the Arlington Arts Center in Arlington, VA, and she is currently exhibiting a solo show, A Leaf from My Rose Garden, at the Southern Center for Contemporary Arts in Winston-Salem, NC. Born in Tehran, Hedieh’s paintings depict both American and Iranian culture, and fuse western abstraction with ornamental and traditional Persian art. She confronts feelings of intrusion and invasion in the context of historical and contemporary sociopolitical conflicts. To learn more about her work please visit her website.
CENTERFOLD ARTIST: Thank you for being a Centerfold Artist, Ms. September.
HEDIEH JAVANSHIR ILCHI: Thank you for having me.
CA: So you were born in Tehran, Iran, and you live in DC now. How long have you lived here, and do you have dual citizenship?
HI: I moved here October 10th, 1999 to be exact, and I do have dual citizenship. I’m a US citizen and an Iranian citizen.
CA: What do you love about Iran?
HI: Iran is my home. I love my friends and family who live there. I love Iran’s rich culture and history. I love the energy of Tehran; it’s alive and thriving. Love and miss the sounds of the city, Tehran, from chirping birds, street musicians, to honking cars. Love walking in the heart of Tehran, sharing taxis with strangers, fighting with the taxi drivers over the taxi fee, checking out nostalgic bookstores and loving the smell of a new book. I can go on and on about this, but I won’t.
CA: That sounds pretty amazing. Iran is certainly a rich topic. We, however, have far more important matters on hand to discuss today. Namely, your datasheet. Why don’t you have a favorite color? Do you think you’re too good for it, or what?
HI: Come on, I’m a painter! How can I have a favorite color?
CA: We assumed that since your birthstone is emerald that you would have to be partial to green. Can we get you to commit to that?
HI: Well the thing is, it depends on the situation. I love green. I love all colors. Probably a good ultramarine blue really mesmerizes me.
CA: So did you just commit?
HI: You got it out of me.
CA: Good. What object should we imagine if we want to see the kind of ultramarine blue that mesmerizes you?
HI: A tube of Golden-brand Ultramarine blue or a piece of lapis lazuli stone.
CA: In the art world, you’re turned off by artists’ egos. What is too much ego?
HI: That’s a tricky question. I think when I look at a piece of artwork, I don’t want it to be all about the artist. When the artwork only makes me think of the artist, it turns me off. But, you know, having said that, I’m probably contradicting myself. Maybe the problem is when you meet an artist, and they come off a little too strong, and it’s in your face.
CA: But you’re okay with a little ego?
HI: I think as visual artists, our ego definitely plays a role in the creation process and it’s hard to deny that.
CA: We agree.
HI: But it depends on the level of ego. When it’s too much, it’s a little disgusting.
CA: Your ego is just right, right?
HI: Don’t push it!
CA: You are turned on by artworks that have contradictions. Why do you like contradictions, and do you strive to use them in your own work?
HI: I do use them in my work. At least I try. It’s natural for me because I come from two very contradicting cultures and my work is about those influences. I also like that contradictions provide an element of surprise. When you see things that don’t necessarily fit together come together, it has an amazing effect. A union of opposites. I’m really interested in that.
CA: For our question, “Person I’d Like To Meet,” you’ve listed Hieronymus Bosch, Severus Snape, and Joseph Beuys. Can you go into some detail about why you chose them?
HI: There is a sense of mystery in all of these guys. Bosch was quite a sophisticated painter for his era. I like his wild imagination and I want to know what kind of person he was. With Snape, I like him because he is dark and mysterious. I was a little heartbroken for him. And I love that he was a good teacher. And Joseph Beuys, I like his work and would like to know more about him. He was a teacher who believed that everybody was an artist. He was non-traditional in his teaching and practiced a teaching method that broke away from the previous didactic system. He encouraged students’ individuality and personal expression. He used contradictions in his teaching method because his classes were based around anarchy. It would have been great to have him as a teacher.
CA: So you’re into teachers?
HI: If they are interesting, yes.
CA: Out of the people that you listed, one is a fictional character and two are dead artists. You seem attracted to the element of mystery. Is that how all three of them fit together, or is it something else?
HI: I guess there is something human about all of them. They all seem to be out of this world, but, at the end of it, they all kind of come back to humanity.
CA: Humanity like being teachers and helping people get better at doing things?
HI: Not really! I’m talking about vulnerabilities of human nature.
CA: On your datasheet you explained that “Hendonneh” is your old nickname that means watermelon in Farsi. Why do people call you watermelon?
HI: When I was a baby people started to sing a song “Hedi, Hedi, Hedi, Hen, Donneh.” It rhymes with my name. Hedi is my nickname but Hendonneh is an old nickname.
CA: Does your family still call you watermelon?
HI: Once in a while. When they miss me.
CA: Congratulations on your solo show, A Leaf from My Rose Garden down in Winston-Salem. How was it put together?
HI: The curator, Steven Matijcio, selected my work from over the years. It was interesting to see all my work from different times hung together. And, of course, to see Zac’s framing. The title, A Leaf from My Rose Garden, comes from Persian poetry. The saying means that it’s better to see the whole garden rather than to see individual leaves or buds.
CA: Thank you so much, Hedieh.
HI: No problem. See you guys!
Annette Isham makes art work and lives in Washington, DC.
Zac Willis, born in southwest MO, is an artist living and working in Washington, DC. An avid collector of toys and an obsessive documentarian, Willis redirects his energies toward amassing the stories of others in Centerfold Artists.