Samira Abbassy (’16) Readies for Show in Iran

Samira Abbassy has spent her residency creating new works for an upcoming solo exhibition in Tehran next January.

This is an emotional journey. Born in Iran, Samira’s family fled to England in the late 1960s in response to growing political instability. After 30 years in England, Samira moved to New York City in the late 1990s. Her work has never been exhibited in Iran, and she has not returned since the 1979 revolution. In fact, one of the logistical challenges of attending her own opening is securing a new birth certificate (which is required for a visa) since the Iranian government does not recognize her current Shah-era birth certificate.

In anticipation of this show, Samira has spent most of the summer upstate, in Woodstock, and now at Saltonstall. “I needed to seclude myself,” she explains. “I needed concentrated time to work.” She’s been careful not to make work that is overtly political or sexual, knowing that each piece will be scrutinized by censors upon arrival in Iran. Still, she knows anything is possible. “Because of the relationship between Iran and the U.S. there’s no guarantee that I’ll ever see the work again,” she laughs, imagining a worst-case-scenario.

Despite these challenges, Samira keeps working towards her deadlines, knowing this opportunity might not present itself again. “I’ve asked myself, ‘how much longer do I want to wait?” she says, referring to an improvement in the relationship between the two countries. “But I’ve been waiting all my life!”

“If I thought about all of this while I was working, I’d be paralyzed,” she says. “But the pleasure of it all is making the work.”