On Jan. 29, museums from all across Southern California banded together to host their 12th annual Museum Free-For-All day, a day where over 30 museums in the area offered free admission. Amid the iconic exhibits throughout Los Angeles lies a gem that may not have made it onto Instagram feeds alongside the abundance of Los Angeles County Museum of Art posts — the Focus Iran 2: Contemporary Photography and Video exhibit at the Craft and Folk Art Museum.
According to the CAFAM website, Focus Iran 2 intends to feature a spectrum of artists’ photography and video works depicting Iranian culture and heritage. The exhibition opened on Saturday night, presented in collaboration with the Farhang Foundation, and will be on display until May 7.
The contributing artists come from every corner of the world, representing countries like the United States, the Netherlands and Iran itself. While the exhibition juror panel initially received 287 submissions, they managed to narrow it down to the 42 inspiring works that are hanging on the walls of the CAFAM today.
Each piece of work provides aspects of insight into the raw aspects of Iranian life, from looking deeper at the hijab to real stories of migration to details of citizens’ day-to-day life. As opposed to just looking at exceptional photographs of the nation’s beauty — as many photography exhibits tend to portray — this collection aims to expose the lies that plague the country while veraciously illustrating the truth of Iranian history and art.
“Every person has their own interpretation of art, and what’s beautiful and something really interesting about this one is it doesn’t just show what people convey as beautiful,” museum visitor Wendy Young said. “It shows things that people would think are more ugly rather than just the pretty portraits and old statues and stuff. This stuff is more ‘now.’ It’s more ‘now’ than the contemporary museum in my opinion and it’s just really cool to see.”
Lining the walls of museum, the artworks also featured the personal commentary of artists contributing to the exhibit.
“When I read the history of my land, its literature and its visual arts, I imagine it as colorful and lovely,” satirist Mehrdad Afsari said in the description accompanying his photograph “Memories of Desolation.”“They are full of sharp, joyous colors, signifying the happiness of the times. These images, takenin Iran’s central plateau, describe the present-day status of my homeland and what is left of it: desolation, replete with silence and dread.”
Exhibits like Focus Iran 2 play a crucial role in the local and national discussion on immigration today. They assist in providing more information on other cultures and expose visitors to new ideas which they may not have known about beforehand.
“This is really important because especially with Trump being our president and everything that he’s been doing lately and how it’s been, he’s been really trying to separate us — it’s basically us against them,” museum visitor Brandi Douglas said. “He’s created a lot of hate crimes, and there’s so much fear going on right now too, so it is very important to look at exhibits like this and see that everyone’s still a living person. You know, they have emotions and feelings, and everyone deserves to be here.”
Admissions assistant Marisela Norte said that due to the attraction gained from the Museum Free-For-All Day, the CAFAM hosted over 1,500 visitors on Sunday.
On Feb. 11, CAFAM will also be hosting a free juror and artist discussion, followed by a reception for Focus Iran 2, where an all-female panel of exhibiting artists will discuss their views on their art and Iranian life.