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Jewish Journal

Persian Jewish Artist Finds New Freedom

by Karmel Melamed

August 10, 2006 | 8:00 pm

Krista Nassi's art

She has won international art competitions, sold her works around the globe, and even had her pieces displayed in renowned galleries around the world. Yet nothing might be more gratifying for Iranian Jewish artist Krista Nassi than displaying her work for the first time in the United States at Gallery 33 East in Long Beach on Aug. 12. The show will be the first opportunity for the new immigrant artist to freely exhibit her unique pieces -- as she had never been able to do in Iran.

Having spent the last year in Los Angeles, the 30-something Nassi has been busy trying to make a name for herself in the local art realm while continuing to create her unique installation art works that combine various forms of media together.

"From the time I have arrived here I have been passionate about producing works with various themes including the Holocaust which I would have never been able to explore in Iran," Nassi said.

Krista Nassi In addition to holding a degree in graphic design from Tehran's Institute of Graphic Design and Architecture and a master's degree in art from Tehran's University of Art, Nassi has spent more than 10 years making a name for herself in the art world who has shown themes ranging from women's rights and marriage to societal issues. She has also accumulated awards a number of international art competitions, including a Gold Medal at the prestigious 2002 10th Asian Art Biennial competition, from among thousands of artists in Asia.

Despite her tremendous achievements and acclaim, she still encountered anti-Semitism from her colleagues in Iran and was even called "Joohood," a derogatory Persian word for a Jew.

"In one stance after I won one of my awards a number of people came up to me and said 'you are a Joohood girl who thinks she can be something but we'll stop you from going any further,'" Nassi said.

Nassi said her Jewish identity was also a major obstacle for her in Iran since some of her works would not be displayed in many of the state-funded galleries. She was also prevented four times from enrolling in a doctoral art program at a Teheran university.

"When I asked them why they would not allow me to register, they gave me different absurd reasons and I slowly realized it was because I was Jewish," she said. "Finally one of the assistants at the college told me flat out 'Miss, you are from the worst of the minority groups so don't waste your time trying to register!'"

Seeing her creative energies stifled and no future for her career, Nassi left Iran and literally started with just a white canvas in the Los Angeles art scene. She has been creating more of her installation pieces with themes closest to her heart that she had never been able to explore in the past.

"From the time the Iranian president made those comments about the Holocaust I can't understand how he could allow himself to make such ridiculous comments," said Nassi. "His words were really bone chilling and they loose their effect in the translation. Since I understand them and because I've seen the crematoria in Austria and Germany, it has been my goal as an Iranian Jew to depict the theme of the Holocaust in my work."

Noticing her talent and ambitions, some local Iranian Jewish organizations have warmly welcomed Nassi and embraced her unique artwork.

"She's intelligent, passionate about her work and very talented," said Dariush Fakheri, founder of the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center in Tarzana. "We would welcome her and have in the past welcomed talented artists and writers from our community to share their works at our center".

Krista Nassi's art work will appear between Aug. 12 and Sept. 2 at the Gallery 33 East in Long Beach. For more information, call (562) 433-1496. www.gallery33east.com

Krista Nassi's past artwork can be found at www.kristanassi.com.

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