Pooneh Maghazehe: One of 56 Reasons to See Iran Inside Out at the Chelsea Museum


Pooneh Maghazehe's Underground Trinity, Walk With Me

Tampons soaked in colorful paints, supermarket steaks wrapped in plastic, and Amish dresses procured off of eBay — these are just some of the materials employed by Brooklyn-based artist Pooneh Maghazehe’s sculpture and performance art. This summer, Maghazehe is one of 56 artists whose work is on display in the Chelsea Museum’s seminal Iran Inside Out exhibition, a comprehensive and — given ongoing events in Iran — extremely timely expo of contemporary art from Iran and the Iranian diaspora.

At 30, Maghazehe is about as old as the Islamic revolution, a subject her work addresses head on. She grew up outside of Philadelphia, which is where she first had the idea of pimping out Amish dresses, Persian style.

“They remind me of the chador,” she says. “It’s all the same, really.” Using gold tassels from curtain fabric, a lacy top found on the streets of New York, iron-on patches and cut up pieces of traditional shoes purchased from the Tehran bazaar, she keeps the modest cuts of the Pennsylvania Dutch plainclothes intact while transforming them into Elvis-esque costumes, and then wears them to perform elaborate rituals for art gallery audiences or to walk the aisles of her local grocery store while a photographer friend captures the spectacle. These dresses — two of which appear in a concurrent show of Iranian art at the Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery — are emblazoned with bold slogans like “Puritan Pride,” “Hell’s Angles,” and “Holy Shiite.”

“I’m not so much poking fun as commenting on what the culture has done to itself,” she says, referring to the sometimes ostentatious Iranian expat community living in the U.S.

Pioneer 2

At the Chelsea Museum, a rainbow row of tampons Maghazehe has dipped in paint hangs from a rod, color coded to represent Iranians’ access to information online. What little blue is in the piece represents the amount of information on the Internet available in Farsi. Elsewhere in the building, she has steaks on display — actual steaks — branded with arabesque patterns of her own design.

Branding is something Maghazehe would like to explore more in her art. She can occasionally be found on street corners around the city, wielding her branding iron, ready to sear her designs into your clothing. And when asked if she would try branding people, she nods earnestly and says, “I’m working up to that.”