We had the good fortune of connecting with Avisheh Mohsenin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Avisheh, why did you pursue a creative career?
My formal studies are in Economics but I was always exposed and drawn to visual arts. As I started my career in economic consulting it soon became clear that I was missing the creative side. I picked up photography and printing which later morphed into mixed media and collage making. The freedom that came with letting go of constraints was addictive. I challenged myself to create the best I could within the limitations of technique and time. Art making has been not only a source of balance and grounding but a means of transcending ideas.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As an economist whose primarily occupation is to work with data and logical inferences, my main limitation is time. I am also influenced by the notion of finding beauty and meaning in anything no matter how mundane they might seem. Many of the series I have created have been the results of transforming something bad, ugly, or ordinary into visuals that communicate the opposite. Being in the margins of the artworld as an “outsider” or “self taught” artist came with its own benefits: it allowed me to not focus on being accepted but to just practice. It was a liberating endeavor so the challenges were “good” challenges! I enjoyed having to work against deadlines and maintaining a day job that was funding my art practice. The best lesson is to just keep doing it. No matter the reaction or the downs, to just continue. If you have the urge to create, do it at any time. Do it no matter how bad you think it is, or if you fear it won’t be regarded highly. I also think no matter what opportunity a creative person is offered, they should take it. Don’t overthink whether you should participate in this or that show. Participate, show up, make things, and keep going. There are so many aspects that you gain from just showing up and doing that will not necessary manifest itself at the beginning. Over time you will look back and see how much you have learned and grown, the community you have built , and how your visions and oeuvre have evolved. This is only achieved if you keep going.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
A friend who visits me in Houston cannot get away from going to most of these places below: We would go to Rice University and experience the beautiful “James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skyspace” by Moody’s center for the Arts. It would be great to arrange the time to be there at sunset or when there is a performance, but the sculpture gives you a piercing experience at any time. We would then eat a croissant or a sandwich in the neighborhood at Croissant-Brioche on Rice Boulevard and walk around. Another stop is the Chapel of St. Basil at St. Thomas University designed by Philip Johnson followed with a mini lecture on PJ and his work in Houston. Even if one does not get to enter the chapel, the structure is so unique that it will make their best photographs of their trip! We would then do some gallery hopping at the Upper Kirby galleries (Heidi Vaughan Fine Art at 3510 Lake St. and around) and at 4411 Montrose Blvd and at Hiram Butler. We will then spend a day of “pilgrimage” at the Menil Collection. Visit all the buildings, including the Houston Center for Photography that is always open and has exhibits on display. We will grab lunch at Lúa Viet Kitchen on W. Alabama across from Bistro Menil and walk back to the Menil lawn to picnic under the magnificent oak trees. Maybe a little bit of yoga stretches, a meditation by he Rothko Chapel pool facing Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk to tie it all together. A drink at Bistro Menil would be a bonus too. Another day will have to be spent at the new Nancy and Rich Kinder Building and the MFA. We will not miss the CAM (Contemporary Art Museum). If time allows, walking down Hermann park by the pond and checking out the public sculptures (some of which are conserved by the Houston Arts Foundation (https://www.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mother was my first creative influence. She lives life with taste and creativity. She constantly made things, used her hands, and made everything beautiful with the minimum. Looking back I see how that has shaped my artistry. My art teachers, all had one thing in common: pushing me to let go and be free. Parvaneh Etemadi (acclaimed Iranian painter), Ms X (a photo artist instructor at Columbia College Chicago, that unfortunately her name I cannot recall), and Paula Henderson (artist and painting instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago) all had a hand in giving me wings. My friend Kai-Duc Luong (video artist and filmmaker) was a great encouragement at the beginning especially to show my work. My gallerist in Houston Heidi Vaughan of Heidi Vaughan Fine Art (https://heidivaughanfineart.
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By Hilary Schuhmacher Photography (hilaryschuhmacher.com)