Aram Amini: Celebrating Her Culture, Womanhood, And Independence Through Art
Aram Amini perches on her stool, paint brush at the ready, and gazes at the silk rose petals from her wedding. Her airy studio room is in its usual organized state, assorted canvases stacked against one wall, paints and brushes tucked away in drawers, and a bluetooth speaker played a soft Frank Sinatra song. Her easel lay forgotten because today, her leftover rose petals are scattered on her work table, ready to be transformed.
They look so real, they could almost fool a florist. Each petal has its own individual veins almost like a person. They are beautiful in a delicate way, but sturdy; they won’t tear easily and they won’t wilt.
She drags her paint brush stained a deep navy blue across a single petal. She leans back to admire it. The paint had caught the veins of the false rose and made streaks. Delicate streaks. She drags her paint brush across another petal.
Amini wasn’t always an artist though. She was eight when she knew she wanted to be one. She was born in Montreal where her father was her biggest fan and biggest critic. His eye as a jewelry designer helped Amini develop her own eye for design at a very young age.
“I would bring him a new drawing or painting that I completed,” says Amini, “and he would sit down with me and analyze the details, telling me what the strong points were and where I could use some work.”
Amini moved to New York City in her early adulthood and often visited the birthplace of her parents: Iran. What she experienced on these trips is what pushed her paint. Every time Amini visited her parents’ homeland, she could see how one type of beauty was glorified and the other oppressed.
Flowers, specifically roses, are a custom in Iran and are a heavy influence to Amini’s heritage. In Iran, flowers are given for all important occasions, weddings, birthdays, even to show dislike (often said with yellow flowers). In 2017, Iran’s flower industry estimated around $24 million.
But while the beauty of roses and the beauty of women are often seen as interchangeable in other cultures, women are not cherished in Iran. Women, like Amini’s mother, grew up in a society ruled by men. Women in Iran are not allowed to challenge what their fathers say and then what their husbands say. Women drive when men say they can, vote when men say they can and dress how men say they can.
Fashion is Amini’s other major form of expression and to her, being told what to wear feels suffocating. Amini was forced to watch while the men around her walked with ease because no one was telling them how to look.
“I do recall thinking it must be difficult for women to express themselves through their style since they always had to wear a hijab,” says Amini. “I remember walking the streets of Tehran with my family when my head scarf slipped off. It only took a couple of minutes until someone pointed it out to me, but it was as if they were warning me to hurry up and fix it.”
This limit of freedom is what inspired Amini to depict women in her art. Her collection “Vogue” was inspired by the 2014 Vogue Paris campaign called “Cocktail D’ete.” Here, she used precious gems to embellish her paintings of women who are able to wear form-fitting clothes and red lipstick, unlike her Iranian sisters.
“That’s something I embrace in my art,” says Amini. “Women as an art form in fashion.”
Amini’s goal is to be heard, to let Americans know that oppression is still out there and is even embraced by some cultures. Her work is her way of showing appreciation that she lives in a place where she can express herself in any way she wants.
Her petal installations are just another way of showing beauty in a unique way. Not only do they symbolize her culture, but each petal is unique, just like women.