MFA alumna getting international exposure in galleries and print

Zahra Nazari stands next to her work, “Urban Facade Installation,” 2015, Acrylic on Shaped Industrial Aluminum, 48″x96″x20″.

Zahra Nazari ’14g (Painting/Drawing) is living proof of art’s power to speak to people across borders and cultures.

Her journey as an artist has taken her around the world, from her hometown of Hamedan, Iran, where she first discovered her passion for painting, to SUNY New Paltz, where she earned her Master in Fine Arts degree.

“To have a successful career in the arts, I felt it necessary to expand my audience and study abroad,” Nazari said. “I sought a program that would give me the opportunity to teach while at school and offer classes outside of my expertise (painting) to open new possibilities and expand my work. It was this combination that led me to choose New Paltz.”

It was during her time at New Paltz that Nazari first established a professional foothold in New York City, thanks in part to a support network of Department of Art faculty (she thanks Robin Arnold, Kathy Goodell, Amy Cheng, Jill Parisi, Emily Puthoff and Matthew Friday, among others).

“I had a very busy and productive time in New Paltz,” Nazari said. “I had the pleasure of working with great professors who were very supportive, knowledgeable and well connected to the New York City art scene. With New Paltz’s resources, I was able to be fully focused on my art and spend a significant amount of time in my studio, evolving my projects from architectural large-scale paintings to sculptural painting installations.”

Zahra Nazari, “Melody of the Oculus,” Federal Hall, 2017, Acrylic on Canvas, 80×150 in. Courtesy the artist.

Nazari has enjoyed remarkable early career success since graduating from New Paltz. She has participated in the AIM program at Bronx Museum, the Immigrant Mentoring Artist Program at the New York Foundation for the Arts, and an artist residency at MASS MoCA. She’s also served as a teaching artist in residence at the Cooper Union.

Her most recent solo exhibition “Remnants” was on view at Five Points Gallery last fall, and was the subject of a feature in ZH Magazine – extra meaningful as it is one of the leading arts publications in Nazari’s home nation of Iran.

“My work has always been influenced by my own migration to the U.S., and that has allowed me now to look outside of myself, to the world’s immigrants, to hear their hopes, difficulties and dreams,” she said. “My current project is to promote empathy with immigrants, and have their outlooks and feelings influence my own abstracted architectural work.”

For Nazari, internationality is more than just a means achieving professional success; it is her lived experience, and increasingly a primary inspiration for her work.

That continued in October 2017, when she was selected for the Tao Hua Tan Artist Retreat and Residency, which brought together about 40 artists from around the world to work together and be inspired by the architecture and landscape of the Yellow Mountains.

“This was an invaluable experience for me due to the enrichment of traveling to a country with a wealth of history in art and diversity of the artists in the program,” Nazari said. “It was my first time being in an East Asian country and gave me a wide view of art and life in China.”

Zahra Nazari, “Tao Hua Tan Gate,” 2017, Ink & Acrylic on Canvas, 40×47 in. Courtesy the artist.

Next up is another residency in Krakow, Poland, adding one more stamp to her rapidly-filling professional passport. Visit to learn more about this artist and where to see her work.