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Visiting artist shares career path

Laleh Khorramian spoke to students about her artistic development and process. Photo by Jeff Li
Laleh Khorramian spoke to students about her artistic development and process. Photo by Jeff Li
Laleh Khorramian spoke to students about her artistic development and process. Photo by Jeff Li

As part of the “Works in Progress Talk” series, Laleh Khorramian, the current artist in residence with the Artists@Grinnell program, spoke about her career journey, beginning with her professional artistic education in the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) up until her current pursuits.

On Wednesday, April 1, Khorramian testified to the ways in which art helped her to face life’s tough obstacles and how she employed art in a variety of different personal interests.

Khorramian said that she frequently looks back at her own work for inspiration, re-examining her diverse portfolio of collages, monotypes, sketches and digital media.

“In my own process, I end up going back to things that I thought about and then years later I end up going back and working with them,” Khorramian said. “So everything I’ve been working on, I’ve been working on for years.”

In the beginning of her career at the RISD, Khorramian began with painting. However, she quickly switched to film but did not consider herself to be a filmmaker.

“I realized very quickly that I was not a filmmaker. I don’t really work well with people in a collaborative capacity, at least then. I realized that with animation I can actually make people do what I want them to do,” Khorramian said. “When I was at Columbia … I decided to start at the very experimental, basic place. School was to experiment and not worry about the finished product but just developing things.”

After her time at Columbia, Khorramian went on to create several projects that were then featured in numerous exhibitions around the world. Moreover, Khorramian has traveled broadly through artistic residencies in different cities.

Despite her success, Khorramian had to learn resilience and versatility after she was diagnosed with blood cancer. Her illness forced her to be bedridden for two years of her life, which she took advantage of by creating “I Without End,” a film which incorporated a project idea that Khorramian started at the RISD.

“I had a project back in RISD where I created people out of oranges and I knew I wanted to make an erotic film with the orange people, but back then I didn’t know how to do it,” Khorramian said. “When I was bedridden for two years, I finally knew how to do that.”

The six-minute film incorporates not only her orange peel project, but also includes some of her original soundtrack in a project that two months to complete.

“I shot for two months and each couple would take like four days to draw. And then I spent a lot of time editing it,” Khorramian said. “I did [the soundtrack] myself. But after this project, I’ve been working with the same musician for years now.”

After showing the audience the film, she went on to describe the existential crises she has endured as an artist. Khorramian confessed that her career as an artist is not as lucrative as other careers and spoke about her experiences selling her artwork.

“I was doing this [project] for the longest time. I had no idea what to do with it. It was actually how I moved out of Los Angeles a long time ago,” Khorramian said. “I sold this by the foot and that’s how I made money to get out of L.A.”

Once she moved out of Los Angeles, Khorramian decided to open a business.

“I started making full-on gowns and people actually started to buy them and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for them. I started to take it more seriously,” Khorramian said. “I had this idea that I wanted to be a businesswoman and that I wanted to open a business. I wanted to not feel like I was totally boxed in as totally an artist because I didn’t think I had to prove myself in that anymore.”

After falling in love with a storefront, Khorramian decided to finally open up a store. Even though she had a bit of difficulty in finding seamstresses for her store, she found some and business boomed for her. Eventually, after a period of success, she finally closed the store.

“People were buying a promise and then I would ship them the final product. I felt like a con artist and I pulled it off,” Khorramian said. “But then I closed it because I don’t need to prove myself as a storekeeper.”

Many students found that Khorramian’s talk inspired and motivated them to pursue artistic careers.

“I felt that Khorramian’s process of experimentation was inspiring to a young artist as myself, reassuring me to continue working on my art and discovering new ways to create my art,” said James Caruso ’18. “Her enthusiasm toward her work shows in the films and works that she presented. Her ability to move between mediums is also fascinating and amazing to witness as a viewer. I would also like to be her best friend.”

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