Queer, Persian and Diasporic: Engaging with the Gay Art of Siros Ariya

By Proshot Kalami.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper suggests ways in which the diasporic Persian-American visual artist, Siros Ariya,
represents the problematic of the gay image within the rubric of national identity, cultural nostalgia, social
contradictions and personal conflicts within his self portraits. Siros Ariya (1960-present) started his
public exhibitions in the 80s, when the gay scene of New York City was plagued with the epidemic of
AIDS. An alumnus of the Andrew Warhol School of Visual Art and born to a military family loyal to the
Persian monarchy, Ariya works with his body as his primary canvas, which, through various technical
processes, is layered with those elements that in their own individual way, define him as a gay man of the
Persian diaspora within the specificity of the “national narrative” pertinent to his personal background.
By doing so, Ariya at once meets with some deep-seated cultural taboos as well as the challenges—at
times even the impossibility—of representation. By looking at his self portraits from the 80s all the
way to 2010, I will investigate the ways in which his art can be engaged with both from the perspective
of the self-representation of an artist, as well as the problematic positioning of an Iranian gay man
with all the cultural heritage that he, as an artist, may struggle with in his quest for establishing his
identity. While a well-known name within the private galleries and collections and the old-money establishment
of American oil tycoons, there is a silence in the larger discourse around Iranian
gay art, particularly regarding Ariya’s works, which richly deserve to be spoken about. This is yet
another aspect that I will engage with in order to explore the inhibitions that may exist around the
subject of the Iranian gay body and its representation in visual art.

Keywords: Engaging with Society, Cultural Studies, Nationhood and Diaspora, Queer Visual Art

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 9, pp.135-156. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 8.435MB).

Dr. Proshot Kalami

Lecturer, Department of English and Drama, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK

After receiving my BA (1992) and MA (1994) in English in Iran, I worked as a writer and director of radio plays at IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) while teaching as an adjunct lecturer at a number of colleges in Tehran. In 1998 I won the Best People’s Choice Award in pastel painting from Davis Art Center in California. Later I joined University of California, Davis, from where I received my PhD in Comparative Literature and Cinema in 2007. I have taught in three campuses of the University of California: Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Davis. As a professional videographer of live performances, I have worked with Asia Society in the US, recording performances at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), Cal Performances at UC Berkeley, Mondavi Center at UC Davis, and Chorus Repertory Theatre in Manipur, India, as well as with Nalanda LLC at Berkeley and Calcutta.

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