Born in Iran, lives in the United States, and works in between
Multidisciplinary Artist and Educator
Assistant Professor in Ceramics at Vanderbilt University
Raheleh Filsoofi is a collector of soil and sound, an itinerant artist, a feminist curator, and a community service advocate. Her work synthesizes socio-political statements as a point of departure and further challenges these fundamental arguments by incorporating ancient and contemporary media such as ceramics, poetry, ambient sound, and video. Her interdisciplinary practices act as the interplay between the literal and figurative contexts of land, ownership, immigration, and border.
Her work has been shown individually and collaboratively in Iran and the United States. Her recent exhibitions include interactive multimedia solo exhibitions, Debated Narrative, at ENGAGE Projects in Chicago (2022), and Artifacting in Unrequired Leisure gallery in Nashville (2022), which both received reviews in Observer and Nashville Scene. She is the participant artist in the Sharjah Biennial 15, Thinking Historically in the Present, and the 2023 Tennessee Triennial. Filsoofi’s Imagined Boundaries, a multimedia installation consisting of two separate exhibitions, debuted concurrently in a solo exhibition at the Abad Gallery in Tehran and a group exhibition, Dual Frequency, at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Florida, in 2017. The installation connected audiences in the U.S. and Iran for a few hours on the night of the exhibition opening.
She is the 2022 winner of the 1858 Contemporary Southern Art Award and the recipient of the 2021 Southern Prize Tennessee State Fellowship. She is an Assistant Professor of Ceramics in the Department of Art at Vanderbilt University. She holds an M.F.A. in Fine Arts from Florida Atlantic University and a B.F.A. in Ceramics from Al-Zahra University in Tehran, Iran.
Raheleh Filsoofi has realized the dynamic potential of her discipline in contributing to dialogues of engagement, community building, and inclusiveness. Her work exists in multiple social and cultural contexts and unfolds itself in research, creative pedagogy, feminist curatorial projects, and community service as noted below.
As a multi-disciplinary multi-cultural artist, her ideas and experiences inevitably coalesce into the reality of social practice. The aftermath of the 2016 election and the hegemony of the Trump administration over the nation, led her practice into a novel direction that addresses many different aspects of current fiasco, anxiety, psychological traumas, human conditions, and questionable social norms. They demonstrate themselves in various sorts of artistic expressions in her artworks; through poetry, stanzas, and millenniums of Middle Eastern art and history. This parallel incorporation of various forms of art simultaneously strengthens and interrupts the viewer’s point of view and common socio-political commentary, while challenging them far beyond the enforced three-dimensional so-called reality.
Raheleh utilizes different aesthetic strategies by incorporating and experimenting with materials with wide ranges of relevant applications to her subject matter. Multimedia provides multilayers of perception and interpretation, while each medium plays its own separate role in expression. Clay is the nexus from which all of her ideas emanate. It is cryptic, architectural, and can provide the space where sound, video, and light stored to create holistic sensory experiences. Clay establishes various spaces; actual and conceptual, private and public, inclusive and exclusive, and defines all types of boundaries that one must dare to cross.
Taking a multidisciplinary approach to her curatorial practice, Raheleh creates a space for women and non-binary artists and scholars to discuss their work, interests, and strengths in relation to social and political structures, cultural expectations, gender, and identity. Her exhibitions expand the framework of feminine solidarity, showcasing the unbounded potential of space and media to reveal connections between the creative process, diversity, and shared knowledge.
Projects such as Fold: Art, Practice and Metaphor, and the upcoming Uncovered Spaces, push the limits of visual manifestation, addressing the customs that mediate everyday experiences through art, research, and performance. The exhibitions, along with their speakers and panel discussions, also provide a unique opportunity to engage with the many voices and perspectives of notable, contemporary, artists - ultimately building bridges between concepts, cultures, and communities.
Her newest project, Revive, brings together women artists and historians to reenvasion ceramic objects as vehicles for imagination, ideology, and action through form, function, and aesthetics. As the world turns to more innovative possibilities, objects of the past can inspire new dialogues between materials and practices that exist within our present context.
Education is a crucial platform for implementing change. As a teacher, Raheleh designs projects very carefully focusing on intention, purpose, and community building. She has worked with undergraduate and graduate students as well as with artists at the School of Art’s Summer Residency at Chautauqua since 2019. One example of a project is An Alternative Resource System, which stems from her professional work and research on using natural resources in the creation of her artworks. In this project, the intention was to find the source for clay and explore the relation of ceramics to the land. The purpose was to collaborate to produce clay and use it to create a large social sculpture. The community building evolved through performance and body movement raising students’ awareness of individual and social bodies in the creative process. All of her student-focused projects incorporate these components.