Painting an Escape

The art of Iranian expatriates Nanda Sharifpour and Ali Fathollahi is being shown through the end of February at Blackbird Studios. It’s some beautiful work, otherworldly and achingly poetic. Some of the pieces are explicitly about the oppression Sharifpour and Fathollahi faced in their former home, while other paintings hardly seem connected to earthly matters at all. They’re just pure dreamscapes, co-inhabited by people and goldfish. Yes, goldfish.

But you really should know about the extraordinary journey this art has taken to reach Las Vegas. Blackbird gallerist Gina Quaranto explains:

They were forced to escape Iran, where they were both art professors, from fear of death or kidnapping. They moved to Turkey while waiting to come to America. …  After three long years of horrible waiting, they were given little notice that if they wanted to get to America, they had to leave ASAP. They actually ripped their paintings off the stretcher bars to roll them up for travel. And they chose to bring almost nothing [for themselves] so they could pack their art and art supplies.

When they arrived, they had to start all over again. … [This exhibition] was started in Turkey and finished here in Vegas. Some of these paintings took as long as six months or more.

It’s often said that Downtown Las Vegas’ resurrection as a place for artists has changed lives, and right now at Blackbird, you can see evidence of that saving grace hanging on the walls. Blackbird Gallery, 1551 S. Commerce St., 782-0319,

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