In Tehran, Farmanfarmaian grew inspired by traditional Persian craftsmanship, and after an epiphanic 1975 visit to Shah Cheragh shrine, in Shiraz, began to construct her trademark cut-mirror mosaics informed by Ayeneh Kari, a religious tradition typically passed from father to son. “The very space seemed on fire, the lamps blazing in hundreds of thousands of reflections,” Farmanfarmaian wrote of Shah Cheragh in her 2013 memoir, A Mirror Garden (2007). “I imagined myself standing inside a many-faceted diamond and looking out at the sun. It was a universe unto itself, architecture transformed into performance, all movement and fluid light, all solids fractured and dissolved in brilliance in space, in prayer. I was overwhelmed.” Exiled during the Iranian revolution, she returned to the US in 1978 with her second husband, Abolbashar. (Most of her collection in Iran was destroyed or lost.) In New York, she made less art, uninspired by America and lacking the craftsmen and materials upon which her work relied.
She moved back to Tehran in 2004 to reopen her studio, ramping up her output in her eighties. In 2015, her ouevre was the subject of a Guggenheim retrospective, “Infinite Possibility,” her first solo museum exhibition in New York. In 2017, the Monir Museum was opened in Tehran in her honor, marking the country’s first museum devoted to a single female artist. Her work is held in various international museums, including Tate Modern in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
“All my inspiration has come from Iran—it has always been my first love,” Farmanfarmaian told the Guardian in 2017. “When I travelled the deserts and the mountains, throughout my younger years, all that I saw and felt is now reflected in my art.”
This article was originally published at Artforum.com