January 30, 2019
The curved and quivering lines of faces with closed or ruined eyes, on display at a new Tehran exhibition called Identity, tell the stories of acid attacks victims and how their traumas have changed their lives. The pictures are marquetries, artworks created by the insertion of pieces of material such as wood, shell, or ivory into a wood surface.
The new temporary exhibition, at Tehran’s Reza Abbasi Museum, is the fourth show called “Identity” and is organized in two sections. One is dedicated to artworks by the victims of acid attacks and the other to disabled artists.
Visitors to the exhibition were also joined by some of the artists. One was Mohsen Mortazavi – his own work as an artist helped bring the exhibition to fruition. He is affable and calm as he stands by the three marquetry portraits of well-known acid attack victims that he has created: Marziyeh Ebrahimi, Masoumeh Ataei and a self-portrait of his own face after suffering an acid attack.
The second portrait shows the smiling face of a woman, holding her red shawl with the fingers of one hand, with eyelids drooping as though she is bashful. This is Masoumeh Ataei, who lost both her eyes and was terribly scarred in 2010, when she was attacked with acid by her father-in-law after the collapse of her marriage due to her husband’s drug addiction. Ataei later fought for custody of her son and has become a forceful campaigner for other victims of acid attacks.
Mortazavi, the artist, lost one of his eyes and was disfigured when a co-worker with a misplaced grudge splashed him with three liters of acid and stabbed him 16 times in 2012. Before the attack he was an illustrator – but for several years Mortazavi has concentrated on profession marquetry and he also teaches the craft.
“These pictures are part of our new identity,” he says, referring to himself and his fellow acid attack survivors featured at the exhibition.
Mortazavi’s portraits of Ataei, Ebrahimi and himself are from his private collection. The exhibition also features more of his works. One is the portrait of a child sitting on some steps in a corridor; Mortazavi says that this portrait shoes the loneliness, the sadness of the child.
Artists on Wheelchairs
Ataei herself also has artwork on display at the exhibition – along with the artists and acid attack survivors Arezoo Hasheminejad and Fatemeh Ghasemi. Fifteen artists with disabilities are also featured in the show.
Some of them, on wheelchairs or moving with the help of a cane, attended the exhibition and introduced their works to visitors. Also participating in the exhibition are 10 artists in the fields of marquetry, wood carving and sculpture. Altogether, 60 marquetries are on display.
The artworks on sale are affordable for casual collections – depending on the artist and the type of the work they are priced anywhere from 100,000 to 25 million tomans ($24 to $6,000).
Mi Chang Shin, a Korean artist who has lived in Iran for many years, is also participating in the exhibition. Her two marquetries, one from an Iranian bazaar and another featuring a tiger and her cub, are the most expensive items on sale.
“The prices have been set by the organizers depending on the years that the artist has worked, the type of the work, the kind of the wood used, and so on,” Mi explains in Persian.
Hasheminejad was 10 years old when her uncle’s wife threw acid on her. She is now a 16-year-old artist and her works are displayed at the exhibition. Her work includes small wooden decorative artworks, such as wooden paper napkin boxes, combs, necklaces, the statue of a deer and mirror frames, starting from 40,000 tomans ($10).
Ataei is also showing pottery and earthenware at the exhibition.
One visitor to the exhibition is Dr. Seyed Kamal Forootan, a specialist in plastic and reconstructive surgery, and a founder of the Iranian Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is also a founder of the Society to Support Victims of Acid Attacks and has performed many pro bono surgeries for victims.
Mortazavi shows the statue of an acid-burned face with a supporting hand holding up the face. The statue is the logo of the Society to Support Victims of Acid Attacks and Mortazavi carved it so that the many victims who have lost their eyes can touch the piece and feel it for themselves.