Interviewed by Naya Clark
If anyone sits for a conversation with Paria Almasi, one of the easiest characteristics to mark is her interest in understanding the perspective of the people around her. She loves asking questions about people and their experiences, not to be nosey, but out of pure curiosity. It is no surprise that she studies art and philosophy at Georgia State University. Along with being a visual artist and a student, Almasi is a general and administrative intern at WonderRoot and will be in the WonderRoot Artist Market at Ponce City Market every Sunday in February from noon to 3 p.m., and WonderRoot’s all female art show during the month of March displaying 2-D pieces in the WonderRoot gallery. Outside of WonderRoot, her work can be checked out on Instagram, at @patar_fuifui.
Naya Clark: To start out, you’re in school and your major is….
Paria Almasi: I go to Georgia State University and my major is philosophy and my minor is studio art.
CLARK: As a philosophy major, how does that tie into your art?
ALMASI: Philosophy’s great for art because it helps you articulate the message of the art, which is a huge part of the art. It’s a huge part of understanding it and connecting to it, and therefore finding it beautiful. If you can explain your art really well, people connect with it, and philosophy especially helps you explain very abstract things and weird things, and it’s fun and ties into the creative aspect of art because you get creative with concepts.
CLARK: …and different meanings of your art. How do you incorporate it within your art visually? Because philosophy can be used to decipher art, but using it in your art–how do you go about doing that?
ALMASI: That’s a great question. Well, philosophy molds the way I think. It’s my major, so I think about it a lot. The way it’s transcribed into my art visually would be things like my fascination with fractals, so I’ll end up drawing those repetitive patterns of things that are the same shape as the whole thing. So in that sense, I do replicate fractals in my work and it’s a very abstract concept to apply even though it’s scientific. Sometimes my art is political which sometimes ties into political philosophy. Also, I’ll make art about hair, and that’s kind of like my ethics. I have a fascination with hair, and society’s standards for body hair and females, female hair, and all that.
CLARK: So you’re an intern at WonderRoot as well. How do you think WonderRoot has changed your art since you’ve been here? How long have you been here?
ALMASI: I’ve been here 6 months. WonderRoot’s helped me realize that there is an intersection between art and positive social change. So they’ve kind of steered my attention to public art, because public art is a great way to spark social change, positive change, because your art will be in the public and therefore survey a random selection of people and every day general people, and it’s not just art that’s in the museum that caters to rich people, or artists. Public art will cater to everybody. WonderRoot has me thinking about public art and art that influences society. Which before, I was thinking about art just for the beauty of it, and nothing really more past that. But WonderRoot’s shown me that you can make a significant statement with your art.
CLARK: With that being said, what kind of statements would you like to be made with your art? You mentioned you would like to change the ideas about women, hair, and women having body hair. What other things would you like to see 5 years from now? What would you like for people to say about your art and how it’s changed their perspective?
ALMASI: You’re so good at this (laughs). Hopefully I’ll be able to make statements about the treatment of animals all across the board, the treatment of women, the treatment of the environment. I would like people to look back on my art and think that I was able to communicate a meaningful message, but essentially I try to stay away from the idea of people knowing my art in the sense of fame, but that is a crucial component of being an artist because [people] knowing your name is one of the best way to sell your art. I would like to make statements in my art about animals, and the environment.
CLARK: What about animals and the environment, because you’re vegetarian, how does your ethics tie into your art?
ALMASI: Well, I haven’t made any art about animal ethics yet.
CLARK: Do you plan to, or is it something that’s difficult to tackle?
ALMASI: I do plan to, but I couldn’t say it right now, because it’s not drawn out. I can tell you an inspiring animal ethics art piece that I know of. A Georgia State [University] professor, Ruth Stanford, she made this piece that was basically a bunch of regular wooden squares of different sizes. They were painted black, and she placed on each black, wooden squares, animal eyes that she purchased from a taxidermy company. So when people make taxidermy, they can go to this company and order the eyes because in taxidermy the eyes are something that the taxidermist can’t preserve so she purchased the eyes and put them on the blocks. The black blocks just have eyes, and the eyes just kind of stare at you, and it’s supposed to make you think about how animals are treated and how they’re using taxidermy kind of reflects on their treatment in society. So maybe statements would be cool to make. It is hard though to communicate your message through art if it’s not so direct. Then there’s the aesthetic aspect of it. It’s a pretty difficult task that I need to sit down and draw.
CLARK: You’re going to be in the artist market. I wanted to know how you feel about that. Do you find it as a stepping-stone, or do you see it as more of a way to get your work out there. What was your take on that when you first heard of the artists market? what were your expectations, especially for your artwork, and for your name?
ALMASI: Ever since I went to the Union Square Greenmarket in New York, I fell in love with artist markets. I thought it was the coolest thing. I met this woman and she’s like “I came from Scandinavia, and I came to sell my jewelry.” I thought that was such a cool thing to do, so I kind of fell in love with the concept. I found out WonderRoot was doing it, and I knew I wanted to be in it. It is a stepping-stone in my life, it’s a landmark for sure. I always wanted to do it, and I’m going to do it. I expect to basically conduct research on how people respond to my art, the type of art I’m selling each weekend, and price points and such. I’m selling three types of artworks. Two of them being prints of my drawing, and a third one being an oil painting of Trump with a Hitler mustache, I basically made prints of that painting, and I stuck them on really nice pieces of wood and turned them into protest signs and beyond them being protest signs they’re done so well that it’s actually a piece of fine art. The wood is really nice, the print is really nice, so I’m thinking it could be a piece of fine art more so than a protest sign because it can symbolize the protests that went on against him and the little era of time that the country came together, and the world came together. So I’ll be selling those and doing research on how people respond to it, and then iterating it the next weekend, and the next weekend, because it’s a three weekend event in February.
CLARK: So do you feel as though your artwork is being affected by the social and political change going on right now? And if those weren’t going on, what would you be making?
ALMASI: Definitely. Unfortunately, it does seep into my mind as much as I’d like to pretend politics don’t exist. But I do care about society, and the majority of people are good people, and I think that they want a good leader and a good society, so I do instinctively fight with my society for justice, and so it does shine through in my art, and basically because I can’t stop obsessing over the thought of helping people. If politics weren’t in my art, I’d probably stick to my normally abstract works which are just approached with no prior design. I just smoke and then I put my pen on the paper and my hand just moves in certain ways, and when I have put a few hours into it, I look at the paper and I realize that I’ve drawn something that is going on in my life. I subconsciously produce a visual narrative. It’s interesting.
CLARK: What would you recommend for other artists that don’t quite know where to start? We know that WonderRoot is awesome at providing resources and education, but not everybody is aware that such programs are available.
ALMASI: I definitely tell all artists to check out WonderRoot, I mean, I know it sounds cliché because I work there, but it really is a wonderful resource. Anything like WonderRoot is a great because a lot of people don’t have access to studios that have a dark room or a ceramics studio, or a recording studio, which is incredible, so if you can find a studio center, that’s a great resource. As far as artists starting out, I would just have to say go straight for trial and error. Pick one thing, try it out, if it doesn’t work, try something else. If it does work, keep going. Try everything. If you’re an artist, try every type of art. Don’t stick to one type, and you’ll be good.
CLARK: Are you from Atlanta? Born and raised Atlanta?
ALMASI: Born and raised in Marietta. So, very close.
CLARK: So being from Marietta, and coming to Atlanta, what is the difference in dynamic, as far as art in the community.
ALMASI: Art in Marietta is nonexistent. I can’t think of one thing.
CLARK: Outside of being in school in Atlanta, how does that draw you in as an artists? Was that something that you were drawn to, or something you were initially hesitant about, not being from something as city-like as here.
ALMASI: Are you asking how my art ties into the city of Atlanta? Because I don’t really have an answer to that. I wouldn’t say that there’s a specific component of Atlanta that really affected me other than my friends, and they are Atlanta. Atlanta is small. There’s no really direct connection between Atlanta and my work.
CLARK: What about the people in Atlanta, because this is a really small tight knit community, as far as art goes, there’s a lot that goes on. So what do you think about Atlanta being a small and tight-knit community as opposed to somewhere like New York, or LA where there’s a huge community. Do you feel like that’s a benefit or a con?
ALMASI: I don’t have a dependence, or attachment. I don’t have an attachment to people or things. So that’s why there’s this detachment from the city or its people.
CLARK: So it’s not necessarily a part of your identity as an artist?
ALMASI: Exactly, I’m not attached to that type of stuff, because it’s almost materialistic in that sense. I don’t need to be in Atlanta to make art. I don’t need to be in a beautiful place to make art. That’s part of the reason why I liked working at WonderRoot so much in the beginning, because we worked at the center. We were all in a little room with decent ventilation, we were all stuffed in a room with one window, and I appreciated the simplicity and the non-bombardment of beauty. We’re in an office now, this is really nice.
CLARK: Right, because it seems that now a lot of artists, especially in big cities attach the city with their art. “Like, I’m in new York and I’m making art!”, but it’s not necessary in being an artist.
ALMASI: Exactly, I don’t need much to make my art. I can live in Marietta and make nice art. I live in Marietta and make nice art. So unfortunately, no. I don’t have an attachment to the city. What I mean is, my heart is full, it’s whole, and so I don’t require materialistic things–superficial things.
CLARK: Lastly, what are some of your expectations for the Artists Market?
ALMASI: Expectations are to represent WonderRoot, hopefully in a positive light, sell art, make friends. Definitely make friends with the artists working there, because we’re going to be together for three weekends, possibly longer than that, because I probably will apply to the March and April markets, and to make great connections. Hopefully make some money, laugh, turn up.