ONE by Nanda Sharif-pour until 3 November 2020 at Soho Lofts, 900 S Las Vegas Blv, NV 89101
The bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip may have gone dark, but art remains a beacon of light in Sin City. As the city is placed under a 30-day lockdown for entertainment and all non-essential businesses due to the global pandemic, a public art installation, ONE by Iranian-American artist and refugee Nanda Sharif-pour, uses art to inspire kindness, reflection, equality and unity during these times of global political and social unrest.
Sharif-pour’s installation invites audiences to engage with the poem “Bani Adam” (Persian: بنیآدم; meaning "Children of Adam"). Written by thirteen-century Iranian poet Saadi Shirazi, widely recognized as one of the greatest poets of the classic literary tradition. “Bani Adam” is renowned for the delicate way in which it calls for the breakdown of barriers between human beings.
Historically seen to conform with the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Bani Adam” was famously quoted by former U.S. President Barack Obama in a videotaped message marking the Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on March 20 in 2009. Since 2005, it has also been displayed on a carpet in the United Nations building in New York.
In Sharif-pour’s installation, the poem is presented in its original Farsi with an English translation on the exterior of the Soho Lofts on the Las Vegas Boulevard. The words are striking against brightly illuminated backgrounds that transform in colour. Reflective of the colours of the rainbow, the array of colours represents the universal struggles of humanity, as well as its brilliance. Nanda Sharif-pour comments, “Presenting the poem through a spectrum of light magnifies the importance of seeking wisdom from our history so that we may navigate our future. The light and the words serve as our guide.”
Sharif-pour’s art is informed by her experiences as a refugee. An artist and art professor, much like her husband Ali Fathollahi, she was forced to flee Iran due to the government’s strict censorship of the country’s art community. In Turkey, they sought asylum through the UNHCR and were eventually assigned to the U.S. Now based in Las Vegas, they both create politically charged works of art that often employ symbols from Iranian culture and tradition and highlight the importance of self-expression.
In her practice as a whole, Sharif-pour often explores cultural forces. As a multi-media artist, she employs a variety of mediums, including sculpture, video and projected image, to engage with the ways in which we understand and relate with our surrounding world, challenging our comprehension of social, cultural and political spaces and experiences. Throughout her oeuvre as a whole, she contemplates tradition to open up a space for new and uncensored conversations.
Curator Laura Henkel says, “Sharif-pour’s installation was originally inspired against the backdrop of the Trump administration, inclusive of, and not limited to, the bombing in Iran, the upheaval of families through immigration and welfare policies, as well as the angst regarding environmental affairs. Rather than creating an installation that dwells on these negativities, the artist desired to create an installation that would rise-above. The strength of ONE is that the installation remains relevant regardless of the day’s current events. It is a timeless projection of love and compassion for all.”
ONE is open to public viewing until 3 November 2020, the same day as the U.S. Election Day.
Based in Las Vegas, Nanda Sharif-pour is an Iranian-American artist who specialises in installation and video art, as well as experiential, experimental, land and environmental art. Sharif-pour holds a B.A. in Graphic Design and two M.F.A. degrees from Azad University of Art and Architecture in Tehran/Iran and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has exhibited in over 45 group and solo exhibitions in the U.S., Turkey and Iran. Sharif-pour has 13 years of experience teaching Art related topics and has taught at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas since 2013.