Sara Madandar is a US based artist from Iran. She received her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin and her BA in painting from Art and Architecture Azad University of Tehran. She currently works in painting, sculpture, video and performance. Her work is often about the relationship of humans to their bodies and covers. Her most recent accolade was an award from the Texas Visual Artists Association (TVAA) in their 2016 exhibition in Dallas. She has also won a 2015 award, curated by Jessica Beck of the Andy Warhol museum, from the Southeastern College Art Conference. Sara’s work has been featured in three solo shows in Austin, at venues such as Co-Lab, Mom Gallery, and Courtyard Gallery. Some of her work was also featured in Austin City Hall, Elizabeth Ney Museum and Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans.
My work is often about the relationship of humans to their bodies and covers (like clothes and hair), and like that relationship, it changes and evolves every day. I use the work to tell stories of my life, about joy and pain, oppression and resistance, finding a common thread within those to connect myself to other life stories. Being born in Iran, and moving to the United States, the tension of living in between cultures has been an ever evolving inspiration for these themes. In my artwork, I often use the dimensions of my body as a proportion for telling these stories. The performance “My Body is My Home” works with the concept of clothing as one’s home, and also as a form of resistance to the way in which the pressures of modern life and its inherent consumerism bear down in people’s life – particularly women. I have also taken inspiration from a colleague’s work with the homeless in performance and theatre. In 2014, during a performance workshop in a homeless shelter in Austin, Texas, I asked one of the homeless participants “What does neighborhood mean to you?” He replied: “My body is my home, and wherever I go my surrounding is my neighborhood”. In this performance piece, I perform for 15 minutes and then leave the space for others to experience. The participant stands in from of a wall, which has a contour drawing shaped like a dress. The shape of the dress is based on the historical clothing worn by Safavid kings, in particular the clothes they wore to battle, with verses from the Koran, as a form of protection from the dangers of war. Through a camera and video projection, the participant sees their own image inside of the frame of the dress. A projector is connected to a camera, and the camera points to the performer and the projector points to the opposite wall. Once in that space, whatever movements the participants perform, they will see on the opposite wall in front of themselves, framed by the outline of a dress shape. The only rule is for the participant to try to have their movements restricted by the frame of the clothes. I also develop an electronic system that uses computer vision software that tracks the person’s movement and triggers a signal if the participant crosses the boundary of the dress shape on the projection. If they cross the line restricting them, an electronic signal will trigger a discomforting combination of sounds and color distortions on the video projection of themselves.
The SFAI is an institution that fosters a great sense of community among its artists. Even the architecture of the building itself is designed in a way that furthers that goal – a rare feature in art residencies. The building surrounds a lovely central courtyard so that regardless of where your apartment or studio are located, you are always close to your work and other artists. This format naturally encourages meeting, socializing and working with the other artists in residency. I greatly enjoyed socializing with other artists in our studios and the common area – and this communication and exchange was an important part of my work there. In residency, I finished designing a performance piece and even learned new skills like quilting by taking advantage of the rich local textile tradition. The access to the local Makerspace was particularly helpful as I learned new skills such as using a laser cutter and incorporating them into my practice. The support provided by the staff at the institute was invaluable. Toni Gentilli, the residency program manager, was very supportive. She introduced me introduced me to an amazing artist, Tamara Burgh, who taught me the technique of piecing. I really hope to go back to SFAI and complete my journey in the future.