Beeta Baghoolizadeh wasn’t always an artist. A PhD candidate in history at the University of Pennsylvania, she only started doodling on her husband’s iPad after a trip to Iran last summer. “I was really aware of how much everything was changing in Iran, and how the next time it wouldn’t be the same,” she explains. “So I started drawing what I saw.”
Baghoolizadeh decided to capture what she was seeing in a series of digital illustrations, drawing from the country’s everyday street scenes, old family photographs and even postcards. The result was Diaspora Letters – a collection of new media art that captures what it’s like to be an everyday citizen of Iran.
“New buildings are being built, new highways are being built,” the Iranian-American artist explains. “There’s new and there’s old being replenished constantly.”
The people in Baghoolizadeh’s drawings – who she refers to as “abstracted identities” – are based on real people from her life.
“It just becomes an amalgam of my imagination: specific memories I have and then personal photographs,” she says. “These are all very banal, everyday, mundane things that don’t get circulated in media. They don’t get preserved in archives, they’re too boring for that – and I think there’s a sort of poetry to that boringness.”
The mundanity doesn’t just humanise the people in Baghoolizadeh’s drawings, it also draws the viewer into a universal experience of family, home, and belonging.
“I was really overwhelmed by this idea that the next time I returned, it’s not just the landscape of the city that’s changing,” she adds. “It’s my personal landscape as well.”
See more of Beeta Baghoolizadeh’s work on Instagram.