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May 6 13

Black Tears

by mana
Michel Bellaiche, "Justine at Dawn," 2013, Acrylic and China black ink

Michel Bellaiche, “Justine at Dawn,” 2013, Acrylic and China black ink

Many wonderful things happen in my life when I am roaming! Not cell phone roaming but getting away from the routine, wandering, and discovery.

In the last month, a remarkable man named Michel Bellaiche contacted me when I was about to roam in NYC. Michel has many talents. He is a painter, a poet, a photographer as well as an engineer. Born in Tunisia and a citizen of France, he has travelled widely and lived in various countries. While his travels have exposed him to many cultural influences, his soul remains Mediterranean.

For the last ten years, Michel has made his home in Spain, in the small town of Sant Pere de Ribes. He is surrounded by vineyards and almond trees with the sea nearby. There are rugged hills and hidden villages. It is a warm and sunny place well suited to an artist such as Michel. Yet it is certainly not paradise.

Spain is currently going through a deep crisis. With unemployment at 26%, five million people are out of work. Sometimes people come to Bellaiche’s door begging for food. With incomes going down, Spaniards cannot afford houses at any prices. There is darkness amid the bright sunshine.

I see the same combination of beauty and darkness in Michel’s painting, Justine at Dawn. Justine looks like a Tunisian woman with large black eyes, beautiful and ghostly. The memory of her is joyful but her loss brings sadness. She embodies the women who come and go in our lives, leaving their lost possibilities in our dreams. The image speaks to the unfulfilled dreams of many Spaniards today. The dramatic black strokes of the painting even recall the Spanish coastline. It has been largely spoiled by over-development, but there are still beautiful spots, if you know where to look.

In Lágrimas Negras, Diego Salazar El Cigala sings movingly of the pain of abandonment while showing a resiliency and hope for the future that mirrors the struggles of people in Spain today.

Michel Bellaiche, "Irène et Jour de Fête," 2013

Michel Bellaiche, “Irène et Jour de Fête,” 2013

A recent painting by Bellaiche, Irène et Jour de Fête, captures the joyful spirit that endures even in the face of disappointment and adversity.

I go across the Brooklyn Bridge and discover a new love. The Brooklyn Museum takes an approach to art that is very much in sync with my own goals at Chez Mana.

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Brooklyn Bridge," 1949, Oil on Masonite

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Brooklyn Bridge,” 1949, Oil on Masonite

Works representing broad themes from across different times and cultures are brought together. The museum is inviting and open. Even their store rooms are visible. The contemporary artists whose works are on display come from many cultures including those that are seldom highlighted.

The visitor is more connected to the special exhibits with the help of furniture settings. iPads ask you questions about what you see and what you feel. Installations are not just in galleries but in public spaces of the museum which makes them appear integrated in everyday life. Scanning QR codes with your cell phone brings you in-depth information about works of art that you are seeing.

One artist at the museum especially captured my attention. He is one of the most important innovators in abstract art today, El Anatsui, from Ghana. His work is being shown in an exhibit entitled Gravity & Grace. Anatsui challenges traditional Western art and moves the boundary between painting and sculpture. He creates works rich with the flavor of West Africa. He lives and works in Nigeria and uses wood, metal and found materials to create large pieces that can be installed in flexible forms to interact with the surrounding space. Many have a striking resemblance to African woven cloth.

El Anatsui, "Peak," 2010, Tin, copper wire

El Anatsui, “Peak,” 2010, Tin, copper wire

Anatsui’s work Peak composed of copper wire and tin sits on the floor. Its folds suggest a flowing movement and the many metal caps sparkle in the light. Peak is a brand of condensed milk that is produced in the Netherlands and sent to West Africa for sale. Just as materials circulate throughout the world, Anatsui creates distinctly West African art forms incorporating foreign materials with a vision that is both personal and universal.

Anastui and Bellaiche exemplify confident artists who expose their unique cultural roots through their artwork. They create a dialogue about what differentiates us and unites us, not just through geography or conventional categories but larger themes of our common humanity. There are many layers of beauty in those connections.

Mar 17 13


by mana
Roshan Houshmand, "In Flight," 2012, oil on wood, 5" x 7"

Roshan Houshmand, “In Flight,” 2012, oil on wood, 5″ x 7″

In Flight

In flight towards Paris. The image of a painting comes to my mind. A black bird flies inside Van Gogh clouds. The swirling white clouds around the bird remind me of the countries I am about to experience.  The painting is called In Flight by artist Roshan Houshmand.

Like the bird, I want to move freely across the skies and blend in with the clouds. To immerse myself in each culture, what better way than to come in close contact with the art, artists, and people in those places.


In Paris, I see the universal need for freedom expressed in three quite different forms.

In the movie called Wadjda, the main character is a 10-year-old girl who lives in Saudi Arabia. She longs for a blue bike she has seen in a shop window. She would like to learn to ride it and beat her friend Abdullah in a race. Soon she realizes all the hurdles in front of her in a society where girls are treated quite differently from boys.  Her innocence, joyfulness and determination are irresistible. Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first female Saudi director, uses a straightforward depiction of local elements to communicate her powerful messages lightly. The result is a delicately touching movie that reveals deep rooted issues facing a Saudi girl who wants freedom to fly on a bike.

The exhibit “Van Gogh Dreaming of Japan” at the Pinacothèque museum expresses Van Gogh”s yearning to be free from inner turmoil. While his bipolarity created havoc in his life, his art drew inspiration from the peaceful landscapes of the Japanese artist, Utagawa Hiroshige. The exhibit juxtaposes several of their paintings for the first time and concludes that the themes of Hiroshige had a central place in the majority of Van Gogh’s landscapes from 1887 onwards. Van Gogh sought serenity, structure and peace through these works.

Across the street, a second exhibit of Utagawa Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo presents a poetic, and serene view of a distant culture, in a time before Edo was opened to Westerners.

When Hiroshige became a Buddhist monk, he found the freedom within himself to begin painting this series of masterpieces, composed of 118 splendid woodblock landscapes of mid-nineteenth-century Tokyo. Hiroshighe’s prints show an enchanting old Japan with daring and imagination. This work is one of the greatest achievements of Japanese art. Hiroshige died during the great cholera epidemic of 1858. Just before his death, he left a poem:

I leave my brush in the East
And set forth on my journey.
I shall see the famous places in the Western Land.


Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul

Turkey is a country that bridges East and West like no other. Istanbul, its gem of a city, is filled with architectural masterpieces of Europe and Asia from many centuries. It is a  cosmopolitan city that bears the imprint of many historical influences. The fusion of so many elements is unique.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque) combines Islamic tradition with Byzantine church design. Despite its massive scale, the building seems graceful and light. The inner courtyard is as large as the mosque itself, creating a feeling of openness and balance.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, interior courtyard

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, interior courtyard

Istanbul Modern. view from its café

Istanbul Modern. view from its café

The Istanbul Museum of Modern Art on the shores of the Bosphorus, with its wide selection of contemporary Turkish artists, was quite a discovery. I was especially drawn to the works of Burhan Doğançay, who passed away this past January.

Doğançay was fascinated by urban walls as a record of human life. The advertising, political posters, and graffiti embody the conflicts and quest for communication between individuals, establishment, the man-made city and nature. His art, although abstract, is emotional, social and political. He is the first Turkish artist to have a piece in the permanent collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In an interview shortly before his death, Doğançay was asked how urban walls had changed since the 1960s and ’70s, when many of the posters and leaflets carried messages of political protest. “Walls are clean now, because there is social media and computers, the youth are not as angry as they were.”


When I arrived in Iran, I found a country full of contradictions. Beautiful people living a harsh existence next to the rich and wealthy. Beautiful sites and museums devoid of visitors.

Entering the Golestan Palace was like stepping into a different world. Its quiet beauty was shocking after the noise and bustle of the city outside.  The place was nearly empty of visitors.  I had come to see the original Baysonghori Shahnameh  The stillness of the palace made me feel more connected to the history behind it.  The complex was built during the Qajar era, 200 years ago.  Parts of it were destroyed during the modernization of Reza Shah.

Golestan Palace, Tehran, Tahkt-é Marmar

Golestan Palace, Tehran, Tahkt-é Marmar

The Grand Bazaar with its kaleidoscope of colors, sounds, and activities all having their own rhythm was like a symphony working well together.  It made me think of how a  busy and seemingly chaotic economic hub has its own untold rules and close ties.

Lunch with members of the Tarkovsky Quartet and Nour Ensemble at a multi-story restaurant reinforced the feeling of hidden mastery. The restaurant served at least 250 people within a very short time, providing delicious food, reflecting the elaborate cuisine of an ancient culture. On that day, despite the heavy pollution in Tehran, I had the sharpest view of Mount Damavand. The highest volcano in Asia, Damavand holds a special place in Persian mythology and literature. It is the magical home of three-headed dragons and a prison for defeated tyrants.

Crowd at Talareh Vahdat, performance of Tarkovsky Quartet

Crowd at Talareh Vahdat, performance of Tarkovsky Quartet

I saw the performance of Tarkovsky Quartet at the Vahdat Hall. The Quartet appears regularly at European concerts and festivals. The artists told me how well the people treated them and I saw how much the audience adored them. Their music symbolizes the quest for expression, freedom in the form of improvisation, and reflection. The Iranians were there embracing them with applause.

Tarkovsky Quartet at Vahdat Hall

Tarkovsky Quartet at Vahdat Hall

I took a long cab ride to see my dad’s burial place. I needed three numbers to find his tomb but had only two so I had to search and search. I was starting to feel weary from the long unfruitful trip. By now, I had had a full view of the cemetery but no sign of my own dad. Finally, I saw him in what looked like the most peaceful and beautiful spot, in a gorgeous setting surrounding a simple but mighty stone. My dad, belonging to a bygone era, was gone. The images of One hundred famous View of Edo came to my mind. Some things are so gorgeous that they never leave us.  I wept a tear of gold.

I wept a tear of gold

Michel Bellaiche, "I wept a tear of gold," 2013, 1368 x 1904

Michel Bellaiche, “I wept a tear of gold,” 2013, 30 x 40 cm, acrylic with china and colored calligraphic inks

I wept a tear of gold is the title of a work by a French-Tunisian artist, Michel Bellaiche whom I recently met.  With his Mediterranean roots, Michel’s connection to light, sounds, smell and colors is deep and is reflected in his artwork. Words also have a central role in his life.  The title of each work develops its meaning. His poetry provides another expression of his artistic sensitivity. Bellaiche currently lives in Spain and has traveled to Iran. He has painted a series of works based on Persian miniatures he saw during his visit there. I am excited about his art and plan to write more about him soon. Visit his website to see other examples of his work.

Dec 6 12

Symphony in Blue

by mana

As I walk in the space and experience the events, I feel a sense of time deconstructed and united. The events are held at Stanford University but they bring up images from the distant past in faraway places, glued together through common themes.

Théatre Royal des Marionettes, Honoré Daumier

Théatre Royal des Marionettes, Honoré Daumier, La Caricature, plate 426, October 2, 1834, Lithograph

The first exhibit, at the Cantor Museum, presents the French artist Honoré Daumier, best known for his caricatures of political figures. During the reign of Louis Philippe, Daumier joined the staff of the comic journal, La Caricature. Through his caricatures he targeted the corruption of the French government of the time. As I saw the exhibit with my French conversation group, other images came to my mind.
"Bull's Eye," Kourosh Salehi

“Bull’s Eye,” Kourosh Salehi

In Bull’s Eye, the British-Iranian artist Kourosh Salehi depicts the Shah of Iran and his three wives and places it in an uneasy encounter with the audience. The viewer is invited to ask the hows and whys, deconstruct the events and reassemble the storyline. It is through this questioning that not only we attempt to make sense of how our lives through historical events has changed, but find our place in history and make sense of it.

A few blocks away from the exhibit, I enter a room where Mohsen Yalfani’s piece “La Solitude Confuse d’un Chauffeur de Taxi” is performed. Yalfani is an Iranian playwright who first established his reputation in the years before the revolution. His plays reflected the social problems of the time. Just like Daumier, he spent several years in prison as a result of his art. Currently, he lives in Paris and is one of the leading voices of the Iranian Writers Association in Exile. In this rendition, some of the actors are former political prisoners from Iran. The play tells the story of a taxi driver who evaluates his life in a series of conversations with his passengers. Stuck in this cage, the driver revisits the milestones of his life and concludes that it has been a failure. He is left with only a few scattered memories to hold on to.

"Symphony in Blue," Roshan Houshmand

“Symphony in Blue,” Roshan Houshmand

Roshan Houshmand’s painting Symphony in Blue brings a process of deconstruction of physical images and their subsequent recreation in different spaces similar to my experience at Stanford. This work is part of a series of paintings titled Trailscripts. As I walk and see the specific events, Houshmand’s painting of time, travel, and chaos comes to my mind. While her painting is abstract, the images in front of me are real.

Symphony in Blue is all in the tone of blue, calm in the presence of different images. I wish to keep the events in my memory as in Houshmand’s painting, a reconstructed image with a beautiful purpose. Structures to keep our psyches safe and sound in the face of brutal historical events while keeping our sense of who we are and where we are going.

Both Symphony in Blue and Bull’s Eyes are available for purchase from the respective painters.

Sep 3 12

The House of Dreams

by mana

Interior sitting room of the Alemi house, Courtesy of Mahvash Alemi, Copyright Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

The house is a simple two story brick building in which dreams, shattered hopes and tragedies dance together. My childhood memories are of tall accomplished uncles and eloquent aunts who often visited us after they had studied abroad at the best universities, of my father’s siblings who stayed with us for long periods as he guided and protected all of them, of many story-book weddings, of my friends who were always curious about the ideas emanating out of that house.

Mom at one of the many weddings

Mom at one of the many weddings

From the MIT and Berkeley engineering magazines that fascinated me, to legal books and the works of the best Persian poets, to the people gathered there to discuss the latest political or personal issues, to the melodious piano notes struck by my oldest brother, there was the raw material to build anything you wanted. At the source were two beautiful, successful, open-minded people, mom and dad. The energy was electrifying, and the variety of characters and ideas coming through that simple door more exhilirating than the stories written in all the books resting on the shelves.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

One morning, my dad called me to come and have breakfast with him. Looking at his face in the dark kitchen, I saw a devastated man that I had never seen before. The thin but always confident and powerful man was sitting in the small kitchen asking me what I wanted for breakfast but there was nothing on the table and his eyes were full of tears. We were all alone.

My sister and my three brothers had left to study abroad and my mom had taken a leave, a long leave to sort out her own life. There was no talk about it but the emptiness I felt in his eyes was overwhelming. There in that small kitchen, I told him that I want a milkshake. He took a banana, mashed it with the fork, poured over some fresh milk, and gave me the best milkshake in the world. I told him I had never had such a delicious milkshake in my life. Soon, I realized that despite sadness, I could fulfill my wishes if my dad was there with me and if there was a will to go on. That drive, we found it in each other, as in those moments we had nobody except the two of us. Soon, all his dreams and expectations started pouring into me and his work.

Dr. Sh. Alemi

Dr. Sh. Alemi

As he climbed the ladder of the judiciary, I soon understood that he not only loves and longs for his family but also for the just treatment of every member of the community. He would work for hours writing legal articles, protecting the poor and the rich as long as they were right. He taught me lessons in hard work, honesty and integrity, always by example. With his career success, his travels began, and I remember him taking me along to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. I will never forget the day that my brothers joined us for a visit. Guided by my oldest brother, we wandered around Amsterdam and The Hague, discovering our new surroundings. Learning and questioning glued us all together.

It was obvious to me that my father was struggling to decide what would be best for me, to stay in Iran or follow my own path alone in France. Our separation was difficult but gradual. In The Hague, he would go to the court all day and I could wander around but would join him for lunch with his colleagues. He sent me to Strasbourg alone one summer to see if I could get by.

Our family had become widely scattered. My sister started her studies in October, 1968, at the faculty of architecture in Rome and soon my oldest brother followed her. My two younger brothers left to study at the University of Wisconsin. They were drawn by the progressive atmosphere of the campus at Madison, which at that time was a center of anti-Vietnam protest.

My father had a government scholarship to study at the Institut International d’Administration Publique (IIAP). This institute was just around the corner from Pantheon-Assas where later I studied Economics. My dad insisted that I go with him to the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève just so I could see what it is like to do research! While at IIAP, he forged an enduring friendship with one of the most honored French families. I continued in his footsteps furthering my own ties with the family members, who were a great source of support and help to me throughout my time in Paris.

A note from Monsieur Jean Baillou

A note from Monsieur Jean Baillou

The news of the Iranian Revolution while I was studying in France caused elation among the student body abroad. This period did not last long. While I had always received letters from my father, the communication stopped and soon I realized that his life and the lives of all of us and the whole country had changed. Those letters, which were always full of poetry as well as advice, were a pillar of support for me. I have saved them all and still draw inspiration from them today.

From his early dealings with Dr. Mosadegh to his views on legal issues, I started to see another face of my dad. Courage. While many fled the country, he housed those who were scared despite his own position in the government. He would stand tall and confident that he is a man of law and he would fight until the end. My father, a handsome, charismatic, powerful, elegant and humble man, seemed quiet to many but he was not quiet when it came to the rules of law. When he saw people behaving unjustly, his finger would shake with rage and in his contained manner he would assert the principles of law. He started writing books about those principles. He would publish articles about his views no matter what the consequences and would live to the end of his life based on his sense of right and wrong and his belief in the power of law.

Despite his achievements, his wisdom and his unique view of the world, what I remember the most is his simple quiet kindness. He was a very humble man. He had a long battle with Alzheimer’s during which my mother and his nurse took care of him. He has left us now, but has left behind my caring and accomplished mother and my four siblings whose achievements realize the dreams that my father had for us.


As I say farewell to my dad, I strive to attain the courage and will power that carried him through life in every struggle he faced. Easier said than done, but I will always be guided by his love and wisdom.

Aug 1 12

Going Global in Trinidad

by mana

Bernard Portet sketch by Jeremy Sutton at Chez Mana's Going Global Event

Bernard Portet sketch by Jeremy Sutton at Chez Mana’s Going Global Event

On July 2012, Chez Mana, the alumni of INSEAD and the University of Pantheon-Assas partnered for the first time to create an event that brought together leaders of international business, law and media to discuss what companies should look for when going global.

Chez Mana added its signature touches by presenting Heritance wine from Bernard Portet, the co-founder of Clos du Val and an icon in the wine industry, along with paintings from Jeremy Sutton’s Cirque du Soleil series. The paintings were displayed in the beautiful Veranda room of the Sofitel Hotel and attracted many people including the management of Sofitel who expressed interest in buying or having future exhibits of Jeremy’s work.

The panel discussion sparked a lively interaction among the panelists and the audience. Atul Singh, Seksom Suriyapa, and Paul Tour-Sarkissian answered questions posed by moderator Venilde Jeronimo regarding best approaches for developing a global business. When considering strategies for going global, Atul said that companies should not treat a whole area as a homogeneous block but should evaluate each country individually. Seksom gave the example of the software market in Brazil which is very promising right now. He said that China also presents many opportunities but strategic alliances are needed there. Paul and Seksom underlined the importance of hiring people locally in order to have successful companies.

Jeremy Sutton's painting of Nakotah at Going Global, Hotel Sofitel

Jeremy Sutton’s painting of Nakotah at Going Global, Hotel Sofitel

Paul emphasized building strategic alliances in foreign countries before establishing presence. Seksom explained that the conventional approach can work well for technology. When there are established mature markets, the beaten path is the best path to take. Partners are essential for introductions and risk mitigation. You cannot just walk in and figure out everything on your own. China is a classic case where you have to establish a level of trust when you want to do business there.

After this event, I left the Bay Area for Trinidad. Trinidad’s harmonious combination of beauty, cultural variety, and economic vibrancy gave me another perspective of how a global economy can thrive.

Iere, the land of Hummingbird was discovered in 1498 by Christopher Columbus who changed its name to Trinidad and claimed it for Spain. In addition to the original Indian inhabitants and Spanish settlers, the French revolution brought an influx of French planters and slaves. In 1797, a British naval force under Sir Ralph Abercromby arrived in the Gulf of Paria. The Spanish Governor capitulated without a fight. Trinidad became a British crown colony, with a French-speaking population and Spanish laws. In 1834, slavery was abolished.

Cathedral Rock, Paria Bay, Trinidad

Cathedral Rock, Paria Bay, Trinidad

With the end of slavery, plantation owners faced a severe labor shortage, and the British filled this need by importing indentured servants, mainly from India. The importation of labor from India continued from 1845-1917 superimposing Indian culture on a population already diverse. Today the population of Trinidad is 40% Indian, 39% black,18.4% mixed race and the remainder white and Chinese. In the early 20th century, Trinidad changed from an agricultural to a petroleum economy.

Trinidad has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources. During a 16-mile hike from the Brasso Seco village to the Paria Bay, I was impressed by the biodiversity of the island.

African Pine, Richmond house, Tobago

African Pine, Richmond house, Tobago

I saw exotic plants I had never imagined such as the cannonball tree. When its round heavy fruits fall to the ground, the sound is like an explosion. The durian trees had fruits that looked like porcupines. There were breadfruit trees everywhere but not the ones that Captain Bligh loaded onto the Bounty. I saw bee hummingbirds that were no bigger than the end of my finger.

One animal I was not as pleased to see was a poisonous snake lying on our path. Our guide Carl jumped about three feet in the air when he saw it, then he took his stick and flung it a safe distance away. I heard the sound of the waves and emerged from the rain forest to see an astonishing work of nature. The Cathedral Rock in the Paria Bay took my breath away.

San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago

San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad’s resources includes an abundance of oil and gas. This has given it one of the highest per capita incomes and economic growth rates in Latin America. It has a very good reputation for international business. However, its economy is very dependent on oil and gas which accounts for 40% of GDP and 80% of exports. There is a desire to diversify the economy to include tourism, agriculture and manufacturing but to date the economy remains at risk to shifts in the oil market.

Roger Neckles, the wildlife photographer has been following his passion and love of birds in this paradise.

I see Trinidad as a country with great potential. The beauty and diversity is there waiting for an explorer with open eyes and a keen imagination to unlock its opportunities.

May 15 12

Going Global

by mana

Ali Banisadr, "Interrogation," 2010, oil on linen, 48" x 60"

Ali Banisadr, "Interrogation," 2010, oil on linen, 48" x 60"

When I was in New York, I saw an exhibition of Contemporary Iranian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a friend who is an art historian. I was struck by Ali Banisadr’s painting “Interrogation. “

Though the painting is abstract, I had no doubt that it was about war. Using myriad fine details, the swirling movements and colors evoke powerful feelings. As I looked at it, among the silvery shapeless shapes, I saw the clash of armies of armor-clad horsemen and heard the cries of humans. Even the smoky sky felt like a war zone. It is the genius of the painter that the viewer’s imagination becomes an inseparable part of the work. It suggests a million dialogues and relationships, all in a war-torn world.

Banisadr grew up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. This experience has become part of his personal history that he strives to communicate with his art. The war, which lasted from 1980 to 1988, was the longest conventional war of the 20th century. This painting connects people to the emotional impact of a brutal conflict that is relatively unknown in the West.

When we look at art from different cultures, we gain insight into the experiences of those societies. Exported into a larger world, these works become universal in their meaning and part of our global heritage. In California, like nowhere else, the effects of this emerging global connection can be seen. People from every corner of the world come here in order to be themselves and to become who they want to be. Operating in a mix of many cultures, they create and are changed, transmitting their new identities to their place of origin. This acts as a catalyst for a globally integrated society.

The increased pool of shared knowledge, along with technological advances in manufacturing, has set the stage for what economists call the Third Industrial Revolution. Innovative tailor-made products are created without large capital expenditures. The resulting highly dynamic economy challenges the status quo represented by government regulations. The equilibrium between disruptive technologies and the laws governing the countries in which they are launched will need to balance the desire of individuals for freedom against the interests of the dominant players. This new global order will require a fresh understanding from those who seek to succeed in it.

Jeremy Sutton, "Yurong," 2011, mixed media on canvas,  24" x 30"

Jeremy Sutton, "Yurong," 2011, mixed media on canvas, 24" x 30"

Going global is the theme of a panel discussion that I am organizing in California on behalf of the prestigious business school INSEAD and the first law school in France, Panthéon-Assas. This might be the first event in the Bay Area that closely ties art, politics, law and business together. A distinguished group with broad international experience will examine the issues of operating in a global world from many perspectives. To enliven the evening, Jeremy Sutton’s artwork from the Cirque du Soleil series will be on display. The beautiful Veranda room at the Hotel Sofitel will house a degustation of the Heritance wines of Bernard Portet, the founder of Clos du Val winery in Napa Valley.

From the Exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier

From the Exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier

The ideas that disrupt the status quo against the established culture are essential to making humanity go forward. I thought about that while looking at the installation of Jean Paul Gaultier at the de Young museum in San Francisco. Gaultier’s creations are not just about fashion but about humanity. He questions stereotypes and provokes to create a more tolerant and open society while applying his technical virtuosity to create visual delight. This exhibit is about an open world, where sensitivity and technology go hand in hand. He wants to be himself and to be accepted as himself. He has a message of tolerance, and he touches us deeply when delivering it.

From the Interrogation of Banisadr and Gaultier’s fashion creations, to individuals making innovative discoveries, the concepts challenging existing laws help the world advance.
To join us for the panel discussion on May 31, please register here:

Mar 14 12

What Time is it, my Heart?

by mana

Spring epitomizes rebirth, renewal and regrowth. Artists of all varieties have celebrated it, from the prologue of the Canterbury Tales to Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. One of my favorite paintings has always been Botticelli’s Primavera. Standing amidst a profusion of flowers in an orange grove, an allegorical group of six women and two men symbolize the fertile promise of Spring, while blind Cupid floats overhead, ready to loose an arrow. The rich dreamy detail painted in a playful way, and the interplay of the mythological personalities always fascinates me. Botticelli drew on classical sources, particularly Ode I.31 of Horace and “De Rerum Natura“, by Lucretius.

In Persian culture the beginning of Spring is Nowruz, the major holiday of the year. Persians everywhere get together on this date to celebrate the start of a new year. It is a time for Spring cleaning, visiting relatives and close friends, and exchanging gifts. A traditional part of Nowruz is the Haft-Sin.

The Haft-Sin is a table setting in which seven items whose names all start with S are laid out in an attractive composition. They symbolize life, health, wealth, abundance, love, patience and purity. Also included is a bowl of water containing goldfish, representing life within life, and alluding to the position of the Sun in Pisces. The tradition is a very ancient one, dating back to Zoroastrian sources.

Koi Among the Water Lilies

Adriana Ippati-Torrens, “Koi Among the Water Lilies”,28” x 21”, watercolor.

This painting by my friend Adriana Ippati-Torrens was inspired by a visit to a Koi pond at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California. Adriana is a watercolorist who does not paint from images, but “from memories and inspirations that include family experience, travel to new or familiar places, and personal stories collected over time. I often integrate bits and pieces of my life experience within layered surfaces of pure color.
I love this painting because the fish is better off free instead of in a bowl, and the texture of the colors gives me a feeling of antiquity.

At times many people including myself are faced with family issues or other sad events. In those moments, we can create an image of beauty, when we do not have it. We can paint the allegory of Spring as did Botticelli, or paint a Haft-Sin like the one by my cousin Roshan Houshmand below.


Roshan Houshmand, “Haft Sin”, Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches.

With such creations, an artist brings her attachment to the beautiful parts of the cutlure while expressing her own identity. Roshan’s painting with its simplicity achieves this complex task. Roshan Houshmand is an internationally exhibited artist whose recent paintings are global in scope as they address eastern artistic traditions of the past, examining relationships between symbol, pattern and chance.

Roshan Houshmand, "White Rabbit," 30 x 30 inches, oil on canvas, 2011

Roshan Houshmand, "White Rabbit," 30 x 30 inches, oil on canvas, 2011.

She has just returned from a stay in India and her most recent paintings will be on view at Booth 168 at the NY Art Expo in March.

The date of Nowruz is the Spring equinox but the calendar in Iran is not a simple matter. It changes based on who is in power. In 1976, the Shah changed the year from 1355 to 2535 but the revolutionary government changed it back three years later. The official Hejri calendar is solar, and very accurate, but the Islamic lunar calendar is used for religious dates, and the Western calendar for International events. As a child, I was never sure exactly when anything was going to happen! The best solution is the countdown calendar by the artist Kourosh Salehi.

Kourosh Salehi, "Countdown", mixed media on canvas, 1.5m x 2.2m.

Kourosh Salehi, "Countdown," mixed media on canvas, 1.5m x 2.2m.

This calendar connects me with my childhood memories. Kourosh combines his memories of Iran with symbols drawn from the contemporary world in which he lives, to express the conflicts felt in reintegrating our past into where we are heading in the future.

One of my best memories is when I would taste the juicy red seeds in a pomegranate. And this pomegranate painted by the artist Kourosh Salehi reminds me of that. In Persian mythology, Isfandiyar eats a pomegranate and becomes invincible.

Kourosh Salehi, "Lost in Transportation," mixed media on canvas,1m x 1m.

Kourosh Salehi, "Lost in Transportation," mixed media on canvas,1m x 1m.

Many artists have celebrated Spring including the French Singer, Manou Chao with his music Primavera.

What time is it my heart?
What time is it my heart?
What time is it my heart?
What time is it my heart?

What time is it in England?
What time is it in Gibraltar?
What time is it over there in Fisterra?
What time is it hey Bye bye Bom?
What time is an entire life?
What time is it in Japan?
What time is it in Mozambique?
What time is it in Washington?
They fooled us Bye bye Bom!
They fooled us with Spring!
They fooled us Bye bye Bom!


What time is it my heart?

Feb 12 12

Beyond the Seas

by mana



A class at Stanford brought up many memories from the distant past. Memory is selective. I have rejected much that I did not care to remember and I have romanticized what I wanted to remember.

Professor Khalessi has a passion for his material. His hands move like a conductor when he reads a verse and the light in his eyes reflects his joy. We are studying Sohrab Sepehri, the Iranian poet and painter. I have just joined the class and have far to go to master these profound works.

Sepehri brings me back to my childhood. My dad used to communicate to me in poetry. When he wanted to convey an important idea, I had to get it through a poem. He wrote in the calligraphic style called khatte shekasteh. I had to read the letters many times just to unravel the words. Compared to that, this class seems easy because Professor Khalessi is there to help.

The poetry makes me reflect on my roots and how I have changed. Sepehri writes about freeing oneself from the distractions of the world to develop the human spirit. He emphasizes an appreciation of nature and a serene view of life. His words lead me on an introspection into my own identity, and help me to separate what is important from what is not. The simplicity, the humanity, the tenderness and wisdom in these poems embraces me and warms me to the point that I am overwhelmed.


Shafinury and Tehranosaurus

A performance Friday night at Stanford’s Cubberley Auditorium was a perfect complement to reading Sepehri’s poetry.
Fared Shafinury, the Iranian-American musician, performed with his band Tehranosaurus. The room was packed. Shafinury’s work blends the traditional Iranian musical system called radiff with contemporary Western forms. He plays the delicate ancient instrument, the setar, with virtuosity. His singing style is romantic, with unexpected pushes of energy from the percussive rhythm of the tombak and dohol . The fusion between the classical Iranian compositions and indie rock brings new urgency to the ancient forms.

Shafinury talked to the audience about the feelings underlying his song “Bani Adam” which is based on a poem by Saadi from his Gulistan.
This well-known verse is displayed at the entrance of the United Nations Hall of Nations:

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

Four hundred years after Saadi, John Donne expressed a remarkably similar sentiment in his famous Meditation XVII:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

These ideas remain just as relevant today amid the world’s many conflicts.

“Beyond the seas,There is another land; Its windows open to the virtues of lights; On its roofs, doves constantly stare-at the soar of human mind
Its children walk, with their backpacks full of faith, hope and trust.”

I should not miss my next class as I have a long way to go.

Beyond the Seas
I’ll put up a boat,
and set it free off the shore.
I’ll let it take me away-from this eerie land,
where nobody calls up the sleeping heroes-
from their long, lonely trance.

I’ll put up a boat,
and set it free off the shore;
a boat with no net, a boat with no seine,
with my heart cleansed of wish for pearl.

I’ll sail away on the tides.
I’ll sing all along the ride.

Neither the blues of the deeps,
Nor the mermaids, the natives of the seas,
shall captivate me-from my solitary glide.
I’ll move on with pride.

I’ll sail away on the tides,
I’ll sing all along the ride:

“I’ll leave this eerie land behind;
in this land,Truth is forsaken, set aside,
here, no man recalls- how their heroes died,
here, of woman all but silence is denied.
I did not see a torch.
I did not see a loch.

I shall sail away-
for I am tired of the reign of opaque, thick panes,
I am longing for the crystal verse-
of an open space”.

I’ll sail away on the tides;
I’ll sing all along the ride:

“Beyond the seas,
There is another land;
Its windows open to the virtues of lights;
On its roofs, doves constantly stare-at the soar of human mind
Its children walk, with their backpacks full of faith, hope and trust.”

“Beyond the seas,
There is another land.
People there, they care:
for the call of a gentle hill,
for the feel of a brief dream.
Its soil listens to the song of your soul.
Its breeze, spreads in air-the full flavour of flight.

“Beyond the seas,
There is another land;
Its dawn is weightless, vast and white,
with the freshness of a bird’ first flight.
Its poets are heirs of water, wind and light.”

Beyond the seas,
There is another land:

I shall put up a boat,
I will put up a boat.

By: Sohrab Sepehri
Translation: Maryam Dilmaghani, September 2007, Montreal.

Jan 20 12


by mana

Snow White

Snow White

I vividly remember the first book that really captured my imagination. It was Blanche Neige, the French version of Snow White. I got it as an award in 3rd grade for my outstanding French language comprehension. I became lost in the world of Blanche Neige, the pretty, innocent and kind lady who seemed to die and was revived by a prince. I forgot about my homework and fantasized about the prince who would save me from everything that bothered me. In my mind, the characters of that fictional world felt real. I even imagined that I might have to eat a bad apple to be saved from the horrors I felt around me.

As much as I could identify with Blanche Neige, I still felt lonely. I could not converse with her, and in contrast to her dramatic rescue, I had no instant way to change my own destiny. I felt better when I didn’t open that book again because it only took me away from pain for a short time. I needed to put the book down and deal with the realities. Ironically, closing the book and getting away from it made me feel better. I was not at the mercy of the story.

The memory of what I felt that day has traveled with me through time and place and today as I look back, I think differently. This book was the beginning of my fascination with creation.

Today, as I am reconnecting with old friends and creating new friendships, I see books from a new perspective. It is as important to discuss them with people as it is to read them. It is through this collaboration that we sort through the maze of ideas and feelings, and even find inspiration for new projects and advances. Maybe there are times when we just want to get away and our mute companions who do not argue with us or ask things from us can make us feel better. But in the long run, the lonely immersion in other people’s creative worlds can take a toll. I am changing my relationship with books and the seed of that was Blanche Neige. I am seeking the pursuit of ideas and stories through live communication created between the reader and writer, the common grounds for friendship and companionship, dialogue and finally the creation of my own plots.

This Sunday, I will be meeting with some friends to discuss the Tintin Book “The Crab with the Golden Claws” after we see the Spielberg movie “The Adventures of Tintin,” which is mostly based on it. The Belgian author and artist Georges Prosper Remi, pen-named Hergé, completed 23 comic books in The Adventures of Tintin series, which he wrote and illustrated from 1929 until his death in 1983.

Voyage and discovery is central in all of Herge’s work. “The crab with the Golden Claws” was written in German-occupied Belgium during World War II. Hergé created the comic most likely to escape from those realities. He had to move the focus of Tintin’s adventures away from current affairs, in order to avoid controversy.

Looking at the Tintin comics, I get submerged in the stylized way Hergé draws the water, his fresh and clean palette of colors, the humanlike expressions in the face of Tintin’s dog Snowy, the lovely character developments and the amazing ability to express speed. He is famous for having created the “ligne Claire” style in which he uses strong lines and pays equal attention to every element. We will have a lot to talk about as we discuss Hergé’s art on Sunday.

Dec 30 11

An Artistic Innovator

by mana
Auguste Rodin; The Age of the Bronze

Auguste Rodin; The Age of the Bronze

Rodin and America, Influence and Adaptation, 1876 – 1936 is currently on exhibit at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. It features the works of Rodin and the American artists he influenced. These artists include John Storrs, Gertrude Whitney, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexander Calder, Edward Steichen and many others. His late drawings influenced John Singer Sargent’s drawings of nude figures. In addition to a wide range of Rodin’s work, the work of 42 other artists are on display, showing the influence of Rodin’s artistic innovations. This powerful exhibit gave me many things to think about but two elements particularly struck me, the setting and the idea of fragmentation.

École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts

École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts

Rodin applied to the École des Beaux-Arts three times and his application was rejected. He finally applied to a less prestigious school that trained craftsmen rather than fine artists. Yet he became the most celebrated artist of his day. Rodin is credited with several innovations: the truncation of human body, which was intensively investigated by Edward Steichen and other American photographers, the dissolution of form, a more naturalistic approach to sexual subject matter, the use of unfinished surfaces, and the addition of powerful feelings of movement in sculpture. Rodin’s work was a tipping point in America’s transition from the academic tradition to modernism.

Of all his contributions, the introduction of the fragment as a complete work affected me the most. Rainer Maria Rilke says “It is left to the artist to make out of many things one thing, and from the smallest part of a thing an entirety. “ One can communicate powerfully, spiritually, and emotionally in a fragment.

Fragmented view of Rodin's sculpture

Fragmented view of Rodin's sculpture

A fragment can express better a certain mood than the whole object. The exhibit starts with a large banner showing Steichen’s photograph of Rodin’s statue of Balzac. Steichen talks about the dialectic between the photographer and its subject:“The photographer not only sees – he looks and in the process of looking, insight is developed to the point where the object looks back at the photographer and together they make the photo. “ The photos I have taken are also fragments of his works, to create a dialectic between his work and my feelings.

I have seen Rodin’s sculptures in the beautiful Musée Rodin in Paris. It is an elegant hotel particulier with elaborate boiseries in a lovely garden which contains many of the famous sculptures in natural settings. However I found the setting at the Cantor a perfect atmosphere to surround his works. The modern stair case and the clean lines of the windows provide a minimalist background that frames each sculpture and enhances it, bringing out the modern aspects of his work.

Staircase at Canot Arts Center

Staircase at Canot Arts Center

The way in which the artist reaches his goal is the secret of his own existence.—Auguste Rodin

Let us get a glimpse through Rodin’s existence by seeing this exhibit. I am leading a Meetup group called Les Bons Vivants. It is for French speaking people or those who would like to be involved with French culture. We will be meeting at 2:00 pm on January 7th at the Cantor Arts Center. Please join us.