Orkideh Torabi imagines herself as a director who, through painting, resituates the power dynamics of patriarchal society in her native Iran. Rendered with simple button-like eyes, injured or missing noses, unnatural skin hues, and tacked-on mustaches, her unabashedly humorous paintings imbue the protagonists with an emasculated and clown-like state of being. She juxtaposes her cartoonish images of contemporary against vivid patterns that are influenced by Persian miniatures, small yet highly detailed illustrations that have been an integral part of Iranian culture since the 13th century. In doing so, Torabi makes explicit that the past and present become interwoven. Using fabric dye on cotton fabric through an idiosyncratic transfer process that generates saturated surfaces, Torabi’s paintings have a batik or watercolor-like fluidity in which her men revel. Titles like “Which One Is My Wife” and “I’ll Catch You,” update the timeless popular image of “the dirty old man” through contemporary political satire.
Writing recently in the Chicago Reader, artist and critic Dmitry Samarov observed “…the pieces that affected me the most were Orkideh Torabi’s portraits. Silk-screened onto cotton in an odd, batik-like stained technique, the faces are eerily anonymous, yet somehow particular and subjective. Some seem like playing-card silhouettes, while others are reminiscent of circus posters or mugshots. Slippery, unfinished patterns lend an unsettled, mysterious demeanor. Their grouping forms a sort of rogues’ gallery, though each offender’s crime is to be supplied by the viewer’s imagination.”
Orkideh Torabi received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016, and she received her MA and BA from The University of Art in Tehran. Torabi’s solo and two-person shows include Yes, Please & Thank You in Los Angeles, Western Exhibitions and Horton Gallery in New York City. Group shows include Andrew Rafacz Gallery and the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago. She was selected for the 2017 Midwest issue of New American Paintings and has work in the Microsoft Art Collection in Redmond, WA. Torabi lives and works in Chicago. She is represented by Western Exhibitions, Chicago.