Iranian immigrant fulfills her dreams at Emily Carr
With Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s The Show underway, one graduating student has gone from working security at the Vancouver Art Gallery to winning awards for her own sculptures.
Parvin Peivandi emigrated from Iran almost five years ago in hopes of fulfilling her dream of studying art at Emily Carr University. She had worked as an artist in Iran for many years, but was frustrated that she had to censor some of her ideas.
“I wanted to be free in visualizing my concepts and making them,” she says. In Iran, there were limitations when she wanted to offer ideas or opinions.
Peivandi’s sister was working as a family physician in Vancouver, and she recommended that Peivandi apply for an immigration visa. After a long and arduous application process, Peivandi was finally accepted and made the trek to Canada. Just two months later, she found out that she was accepted by Emily Carr as well.
When Peivandi realized that her savings would only be enough to keep her going in a city as expensive as Vancouver, she knew she had to get a job. The Vancouver Art Gallery was hiring security guards, and without any connections in the local art scene, it was as close to an art job as she could get.
“At least I can be close to artworks, and I can enjoy artworks, and be close and present in some artists’ exhibitions, and confronted with artworks all the time, listening to the artists talk,” Peivandi says.
It was a difficult job, one that required her to stand still and silent for hours on end, but Peivandi worked tirelessly, alternating between her job and her education with very little sleep in between.
Finally, five years later, she is graduating, and she is able to show off a sculpture that she has created at Emily Carr’s annual graduation exhibition.
Peivandi’s work is a seven-by-seven-foot pond filled with black engine oil. Bent metal rods poke out of the oil, each one with a fragmented piece of ceramic on top. The pieces of ceramic were picked from numerous Persian motifs.
“I wanted to show that fragmentation and displacement and separation of the Persian motifs,” she says, “as resonating the displacement or immigration of Persian people or other nations or identities.”
She adds that the engine oil in the pool represents the despair that is caused by this separation between us and our origins, but could also represent the economy or oil itself. She is excited that people are interacting with her four-month labour of love in different ways.
The untitled piece has definitely been having an impact, winning an honourable mention for the Circle Craft Graduation Award for Ceramics from the school. Peivandi says that it is an honour to receive this award, but what she is truly grateful for is that the people that know her as a security guard are finally able to see her making her own art.
Her favourite story to tell is from one of the first days of The Show, when a catering company came to serve snacks to the gallery-goers.
“These catering people were always working in the gallery for different events, and then they saw me and said, ‘What do you do here?’” she recounted. “I said, ‘This is my work,’ and they were so excited that they cannot believe that the security now is an artist.”
“They said, ‘We are so excited that you made your way, because we were witnessing how those days were difficult for you; how you were standing as a security guard, silent, although you wanted to make art.’”
Next, Peivandi is headed to the University of British Columbia to get a bachelor of education degree. She eventually wants to teach art, like she did back home in Iran. Whether she holds classes or teaches free community workshops, her goal is simple.
“I’d like to share the beauty of art with people more.”
Emily Carr’s The Show runs until May 18. It’s open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on weekends, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.