Minoosh Zomorodinia Searches for Home in ‘Colonial Walk’

Minoosh Zomorodinia at the Jan. 27 opening of her solo show 'Colonial Walk' at Feast Arts Center. Photo by Masahiro Sugano.

What is home? What does it mean to be at home, to feel at home? How do we get there?

These questions are at the center of Colonial Walk, an exhibition by Bay Area artist Minoosh Zomorodinia currently on view at Feast Arts Center in Tacoma. The exhibition, Zomorodinia’s first solo show in the Pacific Northwest, includes both a multimedia installation and a collection of sculptures and prints from prior iterations of the ongoing project, which Zomorodinia began in 2016 during a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, Calif. Situated on about 32 square miles of indigenous land, once home to the Native Miwok people, Headlands’ expansive terrain of peaks and valleys was a natural laboratory for Zomorodinia, inspiring the unique commentary relayed through her Colonial Walk.

“My art is a response to so much technology that facilitates both increased distance and separation,” says Zomorodinia, who was born in Iran and immigrated to the U.S. in 2009.

Colonial Walk questions what constitutes power and personhood. It demonstrates and explores the ways that we possess, displace and wield personhood in the world around us, and it asks what are these ideas of home, homelessness, community, citizenship, rights and boundaries. Through an earthy, contemplative body of work, Zomorodinia presents a wide lens on the self and an experiential guide to belonging.

Thea Quiray Tagle, the show’s independent curator and a new member of the curatorial collective at Seattle’s Alice Gallery, was drawn to the artist’s exploration of interdependence on nature and one another, including fundamentals of co-existence such as consciousness, honor and equity.

“I’m a scholar of gentrification, so I’m hoping for a broader audience to hear, see and support the sound of a Muslim immigrant artist in the U.S.,” she says. “People will walk away thinking, Hm, that’s a really cool video, but maybe also about the spaces we take up.”

I recently spoke with Zomorodinia by phone about how the project began and what she aims to express in her work.

What led you to this name, Colonial Walk?
I received my green card right when I started at Headlands. Using an app on my phone, I began to walk, tracing my path through the natural environment at Headlands, and I made shapes using the GPS. I documented this through videos, asking myself why my path took this course, or that; and what it was that I was actually capturing. In the sense that I was always looking for a home, looking for a place that would belong to me, and hoping to find a place where I could freely come and go. This felt nomadic. The name Colonial Walk is a reflection of [time spent in] residencies, elements of the Earth—water, trees and air—and being an immigrant.

Colonial Walk is a culmination of a series of work. What are the new elements at Feast?
The work has evolved. It now features various components and uses of light. Nature remains a central theme of the experience. From the beginning, I’ve used fibers, wood, clay objects made by hand in my art-making. You’ll see that as well.

What is being relayed through this installation?
Many of us are looking for someplace to feel safe. Maybe we don’t always know where is home. Everything is temporary, and you need to plan, but you cannot. We always have these wonderings: Can I be here? Can I not? Where is home? I think I’ve been looking for that answer. Where can I find that space where I want to be as an immigrant? Because I’m looking for something that is mine, where I have authority. Colonial Walk integrates these thoughts and ideas to my practice. Another part of it is this immigration, living in another place, facing the realities of distance and separation, though we’re connected by technology.

How or where does your Iranian Muslim descent show up in your art?
Muslims have a lot of rituals that incorporate gestures, movement and walking. During special times, at Mecca, all Muslims walk around a sacred place seven times. In California in 2009, I became inspired by this idea of being in nature as a sacred right. Walking land that didn’t belong to me, but then literally making “a home”, fashioning an object, out of something that I would extract from that natural environment.

What were your artistic influences as child? Youthful aspirations?
I think I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but I never knew it. My family is traditional and religious. There’s the belief that women cannot be good artists, be married, take care of family, and all of those things. My parents encouraged arts and crafts, making creative use of materials, recycling. They encouraged and supported artistry, but not on a big scale, certainly not in the sense of a profession or career since women are discouraged from work outside of the home, anyway. I’m sure that some artistic influence comes from my father. He’s a businessman, but has always been into photography and calligraphy. My mother is creative, too. She’s a seamstress, but doesn’t work outside of the home.

How has the Trump administration affected your work?
That’s a very interesting question. I wanted to be in America because I thought there was freedom of speech. That’s what I loved about this country, because I learned in Iran that you can’t have freedom of speech. Here, in the USA, I feel we are going backward. Some of my work also refers to political issues, not just spiritual. This administration makes me feel like I can’t say whatever I want. What I do now, how my art is expressed, may take a different form in the future, but whatever happens in my life, I’m going to make art of it.

Colonial Walk runs through March 10 at Feast Arts Center.