Huge, engorged, disproportionate breasts jut from the draped body and covered face of a woman — San Francisco-based Iranian artist Taravat Talepasand is obsessed with this pornographic image she found online several years ago, and this figure has appeared repeatedly in her detailed and intricate paintings and drawings.
Talepasand draws attention to the contradictory history of desiring Iranian female bodies as sexualized objects while also covering, desexualizing and controlling them. Her use of this pornographic image points to the Iranian embrace of some Western cultural practices, like plastic surgery. But Talepasand confronts the conflict of this practice within the political landscape of women’s inability to present their own body in public.
In her works, Talepasand largely uses images of herself. “My work is always rooted in myself — in my own body,” she says. For Talepasand, this is not just about critiquing the image of Iranian female bodies in a global visual landscape but also showing how these representations can make one acutely aware of one’s own identity.
Growing up in Portland, OR, Talepasand made frequent trips to Iran. She has seen how certain parts of Iranian politics and social histories are often played out via the media, historical narratives and cultural accoutrements such as pornography, hookahs or graffiti. Talepasand loudly asks us to consider who we are in the face of such conflicting representations of history.
This is a preview of Issue 27: The Sex Issue, available now. Subscribe to Hyphen or pick up a copy at a newsstand near you.