Orkideh Torabi makes paintings that lampoon Iran’s patriarchal society, depicting Iranian men as absurd clown-like figures, drawing attention to the personal, political and social issues facing Iranian women. Her caricatures of male Iranian archetypes are made by painting on a silkscreen with fabric dye, then transferring the image onto the canvas using a squeegee, like a monoprint. This technique generates lurid, vividly saturated surfaces, relying on chance and imperfections. She mocks the complex and fragile masculinity of the Iranian society in which women appear completely absent. By portraying them with cartoonish whimsy, she strips the male oppressors of their power by undermining the culture of machismo that pervades Iranian society. Torabi says, “In demasculinizing them, and through repetition and displacement, I allow myself, as a female, to possess their power.”
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. Her work has been shown in Chicago, Austria, and Tehran. Her first solo show in the United States was in the summer of 2016 at Western Exhibitions, a show that was reviewed in New City. She lives and works in Chicago.