Artist Spotlight: Nazafarin Lotfi
Installation view, work by Nazafarin Lotfi as part of the exhibition 4×4: Willie J. Bonner, Nazafarin Lotfi, Alejandro Macias, and Anh-Thuy Nguyen. On view through September 26, 2021. Photo by Julius Schlosburg.
“Thinking about the many layers of your sculptures, paintings, and drawings, how would you introduce your work to TMA’s audience?” asked Jeremy Mikolajczak, TMA’s Jon and Linda Ender Director and CEO, in a recorded conversation with artist Nazafarin Lotfi (@nazafarinlotfi).
Her response: “I explore the interaction of the body with its environment. I call it the figure ground relationship, which I see as the interchangeable relationship between the human figure and its surrounding space. I move between organic sculptural forms that evoke the body, and geometric shapes that remind me of architectural spaces. I am interested in the construction of space, how it defines who we are, and how it helps us understand our place in the world.”
Lotfi is one of four artists featured in the exhibition 4×4: Willie J. Bonner, Nazafarin Lotfi, Alejandro Macias, and Anh-Thuy Nguyen, currently on view at TMA. The work presented here is the culmination of recent investigations by the artist while in residence at Artpace in San Antonio, Texas, and a year of pandemic-related isolation in Tucson, Arizona.
During the pandemic Lotfi and the poet Saretta Morgan began talking about the landscape and bodies, leading Morgan to write “After Nazafarin Lotfi’s Articulation of Bodies with a line from Lindsay Choi” as an extension of their conversation. Printed copies of the poem are available in the gallery.
Photo by Nathan Lothrop.
Sculptural forms in the exhibition take on the appearance of shrouded figures or objects. Lotfi returns to past interests, including the body as a location and photography as an extension of artistic practice beyond documentation. Reflecting on horizontality as a condition for being, she examines the possibilities that open up when the body’s vertical notion is denied.
In an early-2021 interview with Greg Ruffing published in Southwest Contemporary, Lotfi talked about this new sculptural work that explores the intersection of the body and land. “Instead of growing upward, the forms fold in on themselves and expand horizontally. When you give up verticality, the figures open up to new worlds—a non-human world. The point of view that is high above is replaced by the one that is looking up instead of looking down.”
“I’m interested in working with interior spaces and negative spaces, even though it might mean you have to work the exterior,” said Lotfi. “All the sculptures are hollow. The objects that I initially used to make the papier-mâché casts are removed. I’m interested in what we don’t see by emphasizing close observation and activating touch and sight.”
Photo by Julius Schlosburg.
Tucson Weekly‘s Margaret Regan review the exhibition in “Fantastic Four: TMA’s summer exhibition features a quartet of solo shows by artists in distinct cultural communities.” includes insights into the work of all four artists. Her experience of Lotfi’s work:
“Interestingly, Nazafarin Lotfi, born in Iran, is showing art that she made in Tucson during the pandemic…
“There’s a lonely feel to this ecological work, with the solitary artist photographing outdoors in a world where people were hiding indoors. In two brightly colored photo works called “All Things that Grow,” a figure—Lofti herself?—is nearly invisible. The artist has made artificial rocks out of papier-maché and placed them in a grassy countryside. In one image you can see the figure’s hair and one leg. In the other, the rock is next to a dead tree trunk, and only one arm of the figure is visible. In any case, the human is dwarfed by nature.”
Regan had more to say about Lotfi’s installation, and it’s worth reading. Also well worth the reader’s time is the full article in Southwest Contemporary: “Nazafarin Lotfi: The Distance to the Horizon.” In it, Lotfi speaks at length about how living in Tucson and the proximity to the international border has shaped her work, and how she reinvented herself as an artist when she relocated four years ago from Chicago.
About the Artist
Nazafarin Lotfi (left) with museum visitors at the opening of 4×4 at TMA. Photo by Julius Schlosburg.
Nazafarin Lotfi (Iranian, b. 1984) is a visual artist who divides her time between Tucson, Arizona, and Chicago, Illinois. Her interdisciplinary practice combines drawing, painting, video, and sculpture to explore the spatial and temporal experience of bodies out of place. Lotfi was a 2020 recipient of Phoenix Art Museum’s Contemporary Art Grant, and her work has been exhibited extensively, including MOCA Tucson, Tucson, Arizona; Soon.tw, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago, Illinois; Brand New Gallery, Milan, Italy; and Regards, Chicago, Illinois.