Painting Across Borders

This winter, a study of spaces has found its place at Bacchus.

Zahra Nazari’s new show “Topologies” opened on Sunday, Nov. 11, in the restaurant and bar’s billiards room. The exhibition will be up until Jan. 1 and features 14 of Nazari’s canvas and paper works made with materials such as acrylics, inks and charcoal.

Nazari came to the United States in 2011 from Iran, where she grew up and completed her BFA studies in 2007. Recently transferred from the Memphis College of Art in Tenn., she is in her first semester at New Paltz and pursuing an MFA in painting.

Nazari said  her paintings are influenced by both the history of her country and living in the west, placing her culture’s “ancient architectural shapes” alongside “contemporary urban building forms.”

“My paintings touch upon my feelings for particular landscapes and architecture and how the passage of time reclaims and shapes that terrain. A sense of moving through life and of walking through cities while reflecting upon the elusiveness of space, whether we are in crowds or surrounded by emptiness,” she said. “Aerial views, mind-mapping and tracing of different geographies play a role in my work.”

Valerie Werder, a New Paltz alum working toward a master’s degree in Columbia’s art history program, has been in charge of curating shows for about a year and a half at the two-year old gallery space in the billiards room.

Werder said she found Nazari after reaching out to Matthew Friday, the graduate coordinator at New Paltz, who sent an email to all MFA students notifying them of the exhibition opportunities at Bacchus.

“I wanted to develop a closer relationship between the gallery space and the SUNY New Paltz BFA and MFA programs,” she said. “I feel like they’re the ones who would most directly benefit from getting a solo show, and I would benefit a lot from working with artists who are starting out their careers to kind of develop a relationship between curator and artist.”

Werder said Nazari was the first exhibitor she selected from student responses.

“I really loved her work because it’s visually striking, and I think that it is conceptually rich as well,” she said.

Werder said the process of putting on the exhibition has involved close collaboration with Nazari from the beginning.

“That was what was important to me, that she felt like she had the space to make a lot of decisions in the show,” she said.

Nazari, who has exhibited all over the United States and internationally, said the exhibition at Bacchus is her first in a public space instead of an art gallery.

“One of the reasons I am happy with this show is because showing my work in that public space makes it more possible to have a wider range of audience,” she said. “Also, the size of these paintings and works on paper allow them to make their presence felt on the walls of that big space.”