Shadi Yousefian was born in Tehran, Iran in 1978 and moved to the United States when she was sixteen. At a time when she lacked the language skills in English to express herself, she felt drawn to art to express her longing, her vision, and her experiences. She received both her Bachelor’s (2003) and Master’s (2006) of Fine Arts in photography from San Francisco State University.
Shadi’s work engages personal and social issues of contemporary life, particularly, cultural identity and the immigrant experience. As an Iranian immigrant, her work reflects and addresses issues that touch on universal themes such as loss, dislocation, alienation, and reinvention. Her training in photography has given her a unique perspective on ways to employ and explore photography as a medium within larger sculptural and installation pieces.
Shadi’s work has evolved to include mixed media in combination with photographic prints as well as incorporating other materials such as wood panels, glue, canvas, and light boxes to create larger and more sculptural pieces. In her most current work, the “Letters” and “Memories” series, her subject matter has not significantly changed, but in these new series, she has moved from a more spontaneous expressionistic approach toward a carefully planned minimalistic and repetitive approach. All of Shadi’s work to date reflects the desire to capture and distill some of the essence of her own life as an immigrant, but to also connect it to a more universal experience. Her work suggests and builds upon a kind of fragmentation and dissolution, but also the endeavor to reinvent and reconstruct a self in a new social and cultural context.
In each of the series, Shadi uses techniques that appear to destroy and distort something of the wholeâ€”cutting up letters, using only specific features of a photograph, scratching a negative, etc., she reassembles them as parts of a new image that captures both memory as passage of time, and memory as the willful looking again at something anew. This process conveys a mirroring effect of the past and present, articulating both a distortion as well as a reconstruction.
48” x 48”
The “Letters” series originated from a process that began when Shadi started to go through her boxes of letters more than a decade ago. At the time, Shadi re-read many of the letters, and discovered how much they conveyed, not only of the news of people and events back in Iran, but also how she had processed or understood them at an earlier age. They became part of her story, her history, her memories, but the physical letters simply resided in a box under the bed as a personal archive. She began to cut up the letters, not as a destructive act, but rather in seeking their essence, and to find some meaningful association with the words penned on paper. This led her to cut them up, to find the most important, and powerful parts—as if an act of therapeutic recovery. After some time passed, she revisited the fragments of the letters, and decided to incorporate them into her art.