Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Expressing the Depths of your Heart and Sustaining yourself Economically


Cory brought me peonies mixed with chamomile flowers. We stood on my porch and the clouds were grey and heavy with rain, making our city in the desert feel quiet and still. Cory is a professional musician with the San Juan Symphony and works with an independent group of flamenco dancers called Spanish Broom, dancing in a bistro in the Corrales Village adjacent to Albuquerque.

With flowers and an open heart, Cory thought critically out loud about why he's doing what he does.

He ruminated about hearing professional musicians from national orchestras sighing with relief that their work was at a still when the pandemic put a pause to the world. He felt certain that music to him meant more than a job, that there was meaning in creativity. That there was reason to make music outside of professional accolades, and that there had to be a balance between expressing the depths of your heart and sustaining yourself economically.

I wonder a lot, too.  My first book in progress Where Butterflies Fill the Sky (Bloomsbury 2022) is from my deepest heartbreak and anguish. It's about the love I have of people and home and the luck of coming to a city where people treat me as an equal. It's a short expression of a bureaucracy that robbed me of a normal life among my family. Full of symbolism like bulls from ancient Dilmun art as background characters and walking fish to accompany the main character. It's deeply personal, and something which affects my life every single day, still.

Though I wonder if I have anything else to offer as a writer and artist. Another personal story that I can craft into something dream-like? Or something strictly imaginative, creative? Am I able as a person to make a book about toast? Dinosaurs and pancakes? Or is all I have to offer is stories from the margins? How have I come to hold these matters as parallel to each other? I often feel very lighthearted and happy, and wonder how to explore those feelings in my art, while otherwise no matter where I am in the world I have to explain how my fringe belonging fits in society.

I make small, single illustrative watercolor vignettes almost daily to express things like Cory's flowers and honest heart. Or things like “Summers like Boars Far from the Sea” expressing a change of time, change of place, the joy of having a close friend and even witnessing the end this friendship. Playing with reality and imbuing it with imagination.

Snapping at ideas like a lobster at a butterfly.

Exploring brave figures from cultures I currently reside with, like Cesar Chavez, and thinking of my illiterate grandparents.

Or a friendship like an octopus rolled up in sea shells.

A look at my cousin Abbass when he came across two stray macaws.


Exploring the pain of losing a parent and their appearance in a dream.

Trying to figure out how to build these ideas into larger works, like a piano in water, wishing I had been brave enough to go home sooner.

I wonder what club soda really is. What it's like to be a part of a low-rider procession. To be a garlic farmer and what those flowers could look like. If I continually have to betray myself for the comfort of others.


Learning that pink dolphins exist in rivers, or translating poetry into art.

Under the weight of locusts and grief, people saw him burn his old coat among the jasmine flowers.” Or reducing the importance of men visually in my Grandma's portrait.

And continually building strength. Rejection after rejection after rejection.

1 comment:

  1. hej, zahra ...

    sorry for the hard times and sadness that you have sometimes shown in your art.

    thank you for sharing your gifts with the world ... your paintings, your words, your ideas ... much loved, much appreciated.

    keep doing what you're doing!

    kathy in iowa