Joan Mitchell Center AIR Program

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Kayla Mohammadi

Brookline, MA
2008 Painters & Sculptors Grant Recipient

Artist's Statement (2013)

Like most Americans whose parents immigrated to this country, I grew up with influences beyond the typical suburban landscape. My way of seeing the world has been shaped by three different cultures. My mother is from the southern tip of Finland, a small town called Hanko; and my father is from Tehran, Iran. In 1964 they met in San Francisco, where I was born. As a child I was exposed to the bright bold shapes in Scandinavian design, the poetic blues and rhythms of Islamic tile, and the intricate patterns in Persian rugs.

Being a first-generation American gave me the opportunity to play and live in a world where these everyday Persian and Finnish objects seemed different—even special—and combined they became something completely new. From my parents I inherited my love of travel and going somewhere new, and this is what my favorite paintings do too: they take me somewhere beyond what I already know and suggest questions I might never have thought to ask.

The imagery comes from landscape, still life or an interior space. The intention is not a literal portrayal, but rather a visual translation. A translation based on color, value, and space; formal elements that push and pull in different directions. I want to know, Can I walk into this space? Do I want to? Am I standing on solid ground, being pushed away, or finally stepping through to a new place?

Where my earlier paintings represented actually spaces - a room with a window or the Maine landscape; the new work becomes even more abstract. A painting that represents a building is shown with blocks of color. The space becomes flat and pushed to the surface. The color is pure and vibrant. I have also integrated texture and layering into my work. My intention is to create work that is visually surprising.

All works are copyright of the artist or artist’s estate.