As Bahram Berj Kafai leaned on his cane with his right hand, he used his left to explain the meaning behind his paintings — the two largest displayed at the Santa Clarita Artists Association’s “Wishful Thinking” exhibit on Saturday — through his thick Iranian accent.
“This is one of the villages in Iran,” said Kafai during the artists’ reception on Saturday. “I wanted to show a woman that is thinking, her thoughts and the window… is like freedom, because they’re not free as they are here, or any other place. I was trying to show that there is hope when there is this stuff going on.”
Kafai was describing his impressionist-style oil on canvas painting titled “Woman in the Window,” which showed a young woman sitting in a windowsill, wearing a hijab and knitting from a ball of yarn hanging from the top of the sill. He painted it in 2004, but feels it’s especially relevant today — as Iran is currently engulfed in protests following the killing of a 22-year-old woman in September after she was detained for not complying with the country’s strict morality laws.
“Right now more than ever for this painting, because of all the revolution that is starting in Iran, taking the scarf off, women cutting their hair — this is actually the right time for this painting,” said Kafai. “She has just one leg up in the window and one in… she’s stuck between two cultures.”
Kafai and his peers all contributed to an exhibit titled “Wishful Thinking,” which was expressed in a variety of ways. Some were timely or topical, such as Kafai’s works, while others were more literal, such as Laurie Morgan’s piece of a snowy day in Santa Clarita.
However, there was one in particular that didn’t individually fit the theme, but organizers realized it could be used to express it in concert with another.
“I have the woman there, ‘If the Shoe Fits,’” said Mardi Georgio, referencing her painting and its title. “So she was actually a friend of mine who was trying on my shoes for an event she was going to and she just was so beautiful, with the dress and with her hair up and I was like, ‘Don’t move, I have to take a photo.’ Because she just looked so gorgeous and sometimes something like that just inspires me.”
The painting, of an elegant woman in a beautiful dress, with her hair and shoulders exposed, was just below, and being looked upon, by Kafai’s woman in the window — a wishful thought separated by borders and a wall. The placement, as is with all the paintings in the gallery, is intentional.
“It’s the juxtaposition of cultures,” said Gallery Chair Lynda Frautnick. “Both women are looking down, they’re facing down, their eyes are down and they could be thinking the exact same thought. But the beauty of the two different cultures just side-by-side — that’s what blew me away.”
Morgan said even if a painting’s placement in the exhibit is manipulated to convey the broader theme, the individual paintings themselves are always up to whatever the artist feels is the right way to express it.
“All of the artwork here is the artist’s interpretation of how they feel their artwork [fits the theme],” said Morgan. “They have hundreds of pieces that they could have chosen and this in their mind is what they thought would fill the theme and then the gallery committee says yes or no if they think it is, too.”
Music for the reception was provided by the Kel’isa and Jose Barba Band.