Shady Eshghi spent formative years in an international school in her native Tehran. Her exposure to cross-cultural experiences differed from the Islamic values she was exposed to in post-revolutionary Tehran. Coming of age in a society subdued by anti-western sentiments propagated by the Iran/Iraq war, inundated her to navigate adversity by creating imaginary in-between spaces. Art functioned as her stable nexus synthesizing her diametric worlds: Secular vs. Religious, Iranian vs. American; Public vs. Private, East vs. West.
Hailing from a family with strong roots in arts and music, Eshghi was predisposed to pursuing the arts. Graduating from Alzahra University of Tehran in 1994 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting, she relocated to Miami in 2006, receiving her Master of Fine Arts degree in Visual Arts in 2009. Upon graduation she was selected for Oolite Arts (Formerly known as Art Center) artist residency, and while holding her tenure as a resident artist, she was honored with the prestigious "Extraordinary Ability in the Arts" in 2010.
L-R: Eslimi, Sarv (Cypress), Boteh
Iranian stamp - 1975
"An ordinary carpet is for walking on, but a Persian carpet, richly woven, is an invitation to a dream" - Henri Matisse
The Eslimi patterns used in almost all artwork currently classified as Islamic, are in fact rooted in pre-Islamic Persia. According to historians during the first centuries of the conquest of Persia, artists were prohibited from depicting representational imagery deeming them to be competing with 'Allah' the creator. As a result, artists adorned the Qur'an with illuminations based on abstract carpet and textile motifs rooted in the Sassanian Empire. Among such motifs was the predominant Boteh motif, depicting the bent Cypress of Shiraz (Sarv). Boteh was elaborated upon and later gave birth to the Eslimi designs used in art and architecture. Initially created as extensions for Boteh, the Eslimi flourished as an individual art form, and over the course of centuries, spread throughout the Islamic lands. Subsequently, the harsh restrictions which geared artists towards the use of Eslimi and Boteh, lay the foundations for a distinct style of art which is commonly misrepresented today as Islamic.
Over the course of centuries, the Eslimi and Boteh spread out through India and to the Islamic lands as well as to the west by merchants and were erroneously labeled ‘Arabesque’; while the term ‘Paisley’ was wrongly attributed to Boteh; resulting from British merchants trading Indian shawls depicting the Boteh motif in a town called Paisley in England. Ironically, Boteh is a motif for Iran's Cypress (Sarv), and a national symbol for freedom. As the Iranian legend goes, bending with the harshest wind, the Cypress of Shiraz which Boteh is based upon, is the only tree which never breaks, standing eternally upright with the passing of each storm. According to researchers, Boteh only appeared in its present bent form after the Islamic conquest of Persia, while it appears standing upright in pre-Islamic artifacts. Researchers trace back its origin to the sacred Cypress of Zoroaster, which was ordered to be cut down with the advent of Islam.
Some believe Boteh's bent form, taking the shape of a teardrop, symbolizes Iran grieving its loss.