We finally caught up with Durham's own Kymia Nawabi, an artist who is competing on Bravo's "Work Of Art," beginning tonight. Nawabi grew up in the Woodcroft area of the Bull City and attended Jordan High. She's also a graduate of East Carolina University.
Via email, she answered some questions about her work (she's exhibited at artspace), her experience on the show, and growing up Iranian-American in the South:
Happiness: What made you want to be on the show?
Kymia: I really cannot think of any other facility that provides such a great amount of exposure for a young and emerging artist. "Work of Art" was the best way for me to really promote, challenge and elevate my work and myself. Also, I love that it is also this strange sociological experiment; putting 14 strangers together and seeing what happens with all that energy.
Happiness: I don't think of artists as competitive, but that's the nature of this show. Was that part of it easy or difficult for you?
Kymia: The competitive part of the experience for me was very natural, because that is how you function in the art world anyway. You always want your work to be the best it can be and to wow everyone. As an artist you constantly look to other work to challenge what you are making. Of course, it was difficult though, because we were actually competing for such a monumental prize!
Happiness: Your work explores "the peculiarities of individuals." How did that interest develop? Is that borne, in part, from being an Iranian-American in a Southern tobacco town?
Kymia: Being a first generation Iranian-American was not exactly easy growing up in Durham, during my younger years. I felt an extreme disjunct socially and environmentally because of being a minority. My sister Kathy and I, both experienced our moments and events of discrimination in school, even in college. Kathy was spit on at UNC by another student at a 9-/11 memorial, just because of our Middle Eastern background. The comments made from time to time, and the difference in the way I looked compared to the majority of my peers ultimately led me to develop a severe depression and social anxiety disorder beginning at 11 years old. I have overcome this disorder for many, many years now, and, in a sense, being Iranian from my perspective is what I made work about from middle school even up until graduate school. So, this is where my interest in exploring the peculiarities of individuals really manifested from.
Happiness: I see you've exhibited at Artspace. What have you heard from the community of your appearance on 'Work of Art?"
Kymia: I have had nothing but huge excitement and support from my fellow North Carolina folks! It has been overwhelming with how much love and interest my life's work and myself have received!
Happiness: I know you can't give away anything but are you happy with the way your stint in "Work of Art" went? Did you experience anything that might work its way into your art?
Kymia: I am extremely proud to have just been a part of the whole process of being on "Work of Art." Just being accepted to be in the competition was a huge accomplishment in my eyes, and it is truly one of the most fruitful art experiences I have ever had in my life! I would have to say that feelings and thoughts I have from a certain event in my life, such as being a part of "Work of Art" and everything that entailed, take time to appear within my work, if they ever do. The ideas I can have from a life experience need to settle and find their way into my mythologies after I have come out of the experience usually. So, we will see.