Tell us about your art background: I started art when I arrived in Iran, I had just finished high school and there was nothing I could really do there. I was always interested in doing creative things and music, I play the guitar. My mom is a painter and a crafter, so we would do crafty things. She signed me up to a group called The Diplomatic Ladies Association, it’s a charitable organization where the women who are married to or who are diplomats belong to this, they create events for other women within the diplomatic core. They fundraise money to donate to hospitals and children organizations in the country where they are holding these events. This is where we met Kim. Kim became my drawing and painting instructor, she was just amazing. I would spend all day with her – breakfast, lunch and dinner, I became part of her family. That is when I decided I wanted to study art in Berlin. So I applied, Kim helped me prepare a portfolio, but I was not accepted. This school was very strict so I did not meet their standards. At that time I was very much into surrealist kind of work like Salvador Dalí and Marguerite Zorach. I then came to the US because my brother was living here, starting high school as he was living with my grandmother. He had applied to Miami Dade College, and it was suggested I too apply. I managed to be accepted to their honors program, so I stayed. When I graduated 2 years later I was not able to continue on to university at that time, it took me about 10 years to get back and this time I signed up for FIU. I decided I would major in art history and I finished with a BFA and BA.
Containment #3 20157”x6 1/2”Cotton thread, wool, hair & twine embroidery on paper
Cartographie Feminine Ongoing 120” x 48”Embroidery on fabric and paper, vintage lace, hair & silver
Containment #4 201613”x34”Machine Embroidery on Paper
Flower Vaginas#2 01484” x 36”Fiber installation
Phallic Decomposition 2016 Embroidery on Paper
Do you typically work with textiles? Yes most of the time. While in college I was interested in feminist artwork and I read this essay by French feminist critic Hélène Cixous “The Laugh of the Medusa“. In this piece, she pretty much talks about how women can gain agency of their bodies and of their work and carve themselves that much needed space. She’s a writer from the 70’s, original feminist writing, so I’m thinking how can I make that contemporary to me? She focuses mostly on writing, that’s how women can carve out that space. Since I’m not a writer but I’m an artist, I was thinking how can I make into my language? I realized that embroidery and fabric manipulation is something I have inherited from my mother, and she from her mother and so on. It has been generation of women in my family who know how to embroider and crochet and do all kinds of creative fabric work. My grandmother used to make her own clothing and my mother too. I realized that this is what my creative language is, that’s the language I used to express myself and create my work. That is why I created my piece Cartographie Feminine piece. It all starts with holed fabrics called containments, this represents memory. I like the idea of memory because it’s something that is so intangible. A memory that you have experienced is a valid as as a memory that you have made up. So the processes in your brain are the same and you have to work to maintain those memories. In order to maintain those memories you have to remember and you have to revive those memories for you to keep them in front of your mind, and that’s what I started doing. I patched up destroyed fabric, mending it and try to create something new out of it. At that point in life I was disappointed with what my choices have been, I was going through a lot of problems with my then husband, I was thinking how can I make something better out of something shitty. So that is that process of adding over it, mending, stitching, fixing and embellishing as well. At the end of the day we are these aesthetic animals. We do that with our lives, we surround ourselves with these beautiful things we are attracted to what we find beauty in. That is also an important aspect of my work, I wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing. Which I was given a lot of crap for in university because some of the professors thought that my work was far too aesthetic. So it verged on being ‘design-y’. As an artist you do not want to be called that, but that’s me so I guess I will embrace it!
Do you think you will exhibit with your new work? Yes, I’m hoping I can do so. I have not made a lot of art in the last 2 – 3 years, I am trying to create new bodies of work. The process of the pixilation I like because very much like all the work I do, it is time consuming work so it gives you time to think. Again, that idea of memory comes in where you are rebuilding those memories while you’re doing the work. It is obsessive kind of work where you have to do it over and over and over again. It creates that really nice space too not only make the work that conceptualizes the idea, it also creates the space to live out that idea. I am currently working on the pixelated portraits which I like because I think that, yes it is tedious work, coming from mostly using old photographs of my family. I think it is interesting how again this plays with memory and how these photographs can be so sharp and how you can see so well. Some of them you I have not met, like my great grandmother Maria – I have a beautiful photograph of her with the whole family but the memories of her that I have are non-existent so it’s just things that maybe I’ve created in my head, and that pixelation, that blurriness that exemplifies that idea you have in your mind that is not truly formed. So I think that is a tangible description of that idea.
In the recent years there has been a huge surge of artists from China and from the East exhibiting and participating in all of these worldwide art fairs. Some of their work is incredible in terms of technique and concept, they are light years ahead of everyone else. You have to check out my favorite, his name is Xu Bing. He is a large scale installation artist and he is a big deal in the art world. He is a conceptual artist, I have actually met him and he has seen and loved my work. I have one of his works where he works with language and calligraphy. He invents his own characters. The piece that I have is a book with the alphabet he created all based on symbols you see – like stop signs, and the man and woman you see on the bathroom doors. All these symbols you see in society and help us get through society, he made a huge collection of it and made a story with it. So I have a book that he signed for me! His work is clever, highly conceptual and incredibly detailed. I saw another piece he created, one of his most famous ones in New York, it’s called Calligraphy From The Sky. He carved his alphabet in to a printing block and created yards and yards of calligraphy. He creates these stories with made up characters. You will be blown away by his work.
What is your next big vision for your art? I’m not sure yet, I just want to create art, exhibit it and we’ll see what happens. I would love to make large scaled commission pieces. There is another artist, her name is Teresita Fernandez. She also graduated from FIU, she also does these works for commission. They are super conceptual and just fabulous, she has a huge team that she works with. That’s the kind of work I would love to do!
We will see more of Griselle soon!